I came across a fascinating story about a tiny bird that puts human endurance records to shame. It was a about a small songbird called the blackpoll warbler that every autumn makes a non-stop flight from Vermont to Puerto Rico, a distance of 1between 1,400-1,700 miles that takes it three days to complete. This is a a pretty amazing feat for a bird that weighs just 12 grams.
By putting tiny locator devices on the birds, researchers were able to track their paths. The flight in entirely over water which means that the bird cannot rest at all and only half of them survive the journey. How do they do it?
To prepare for the migration blackpolls gorge themselves on insects and can double their body mass pre-trip. The added bulk gives them the energy to fly over open water without stopping, because coming to rest in the Atlantic Ocean would be certain death for a blackpoll.
Blackpolls aren’t the only birds with an epic migration route. Albatrosses, sandpipers and gulls all travel long distances to southern wintering grounds, but these birds take a longer route that takes them over land. So why do blackpolls take such a risky route? Scientists aren’t quite sure. Perhaps, the authors say, blackpolls just want to get the migration over as soon as possible, since it is the most dangerous activity they partake in.
This shows how species can spread to distant places even though it seems unlikely to us because of the huge geographical barriers they need to cross. Furthermore, they can carry seeds within them that can grow in the new locations too.
The paper can be read here.