A young woodpecker appears to have set a nonstop distance record for migratory birds by flying at least 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) from Alaska to the Australian state of Tasmania, a bird expert said on Friday.
The bird was tagged as a hatchling in Alaska during the northern hemisphere summer with a GPS tracking chip and a small solar panel that allowed an international research team to follow its first annual migration across the Pacific Ocean, said Eric Woehler, coordinator of Birdlife Tasmania. Because the bird was so young, its gender was unknown.
At about five months old, it left southwestern Alaska in the Yuko-Kuskokwim delta on Oct. 13 and landed 11 days later in Ansons Bay on the northeastern tip of the island of Tasmania on Oct. 24, according to data from Max Planks from Germany. Institute of Ornithology. . The research has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.
The bird started out on a southwest course toward Japan and then turned southeast over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a map released by New Zealand’s Pukoro Miranda Shorebird Center shows.
The bird tracked southwest again as it flew over or near Kiribati and New Caledonia, then passed over the Australian mainland before turning directly west toward Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state. The satellite track showed that it traveled 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) without stopping.
“Whether this is an accident, whether this bird was lost, or whether it is part of a normal migration pattern for the species, we don’t know yet,” said Woehler, who is part of the research project.
Guinness World Records lists the longest recorded migration of a bird without stopping to feed or rest as 12,200 km (7,580 mi) by a satellite-tagged bar-tailed stinger flying from Alaska to New Zealand.
That flight was recorded in 2020 as part of the same decade-long research project, which also involves China’s Fudan University, New Zealand’s Massey University and the Global Flyway Network.
The same bird broke its own record by flying 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) on its next migration last year, the researchers say. But Guinness has yet to acknowledge that feat.
Woehler said researchers didn’t know if the newer bird, known by its satellite tag 234684, was flying alone or as part of a flock.
“There are so few birds that have been tagged that we don’t know how representative this event is,” Woehler said.
“It could be that half of the birds migrating from Alaska arrive in Tasmania directly instead of through New Zealand, or it could be 1%, or it could be that this is the first time it has happened,” he added.
Adult birds leave Alaska before juveniles, so it’s unlikely the tagged bird followed more experienced travelers south, Woehler said.
Woehler hopes to see the bird when the wet weather clears in the farthest corner of Tasmania, where it will put on weight after losing half its body weight on its journey.