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Migration Marvel

Long-distance Godwit sets new record

A satellite-tracked Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica has set a new record for long-distance non-stop flight. The bird flew from North Island, New Zealand to Yalu Jiang, at the northern end of the Yellow Sea in China – a distance of 10,200 kilometres, a team from the Pacific Shorebird Migration Project have reported. Previous research had revealed the godwits’ long journey southward, aided by favourable winds, from Alaska to New Zealand and Australia. The new findings show the godwits' capability in flying northward, without the benefit of tailwind. The flight took just nine days.

Conservationists have highlighted the value of satellite-tracking studies in the conservation of migratory bird species: “Satellite-tracking is an important tool helping us to learn more about the incredible journeys these birds undertake and the threats they face along the way,” said Vicky Jones, BirdLife’s Global Flyways Officer. “The challenge is to use this knowledge to ensure effective conservation of migratory bird species throughout their flyways. This means protecting populations not only on their breeding and wintering grounds, but also at critical stopover sites used on passage.” wetland habitats along flyway routes have contributed to the recent declines observed in many of the world’s migratory waterbird species. The coastal wetlands of China’s Yellow Sea, where the satellite-tracked godwits landed, are no exception: large areas of coastline continue to be reclaimed for agriculture, industry, urban expansion and other development – an estimated c.37% of intertidal areas have been lost since 1950. The Sea is vitally important to threatened waterbirds. To date, BirdLife have listed sixteen Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the region, specifically to cover the most important breeding, passage and wintering sites.

The Bar-tailed Godwit tracking study is being undertaken as part of the Pacific Shorebird Migration Project, involving the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, Point Reyes Bird Observatory in Petaluma, California, with teams in New Zealand and the Yukon.

For information on flyways conservation in the African-Eurasian region visit: Wings Over Wetlands' (WOW) Project - the largest international wetland and waterbird conservation initiative ever to take place in the region.

4th July 2014