Young Bar-Tailed Godwit Sets World Record for Longest Continuous Flight

A Young Bar-Tailed Godwit Sets World Record for Marathon Migration Flight

A flock of bar-tailed godwits. (Photo: Ian Kirk via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Many animal species travel immense distances in search of food or to return to their seasonal breeding grounds. A gray wolf in Mongolia roamed over 4,503 miles in a year, humpback whales swim similar distances as the seasons change, and even salmon swim hundreds of miles against the currents of rivers and streams. The animal kingdom has a new migration-related record. A 5-month-old bar-tailed godwit has set the world record for the longest continuous flight on its 8,426-mile journey from Alaska to Tasmania in Australia.

The bar-tailed godwit, known scientifically as Limosa lapponica, is a prodigious traveler. The five subspecies of the distinctively striped bird are known to travel thousands of miles south each winter to reach warmer weather. This particular juvenile left Alaska, where it and other young birds had lingered for weeks after their adult peers departed. The young birds fattened themselves for the journey. In fact, the species is even able to shrink its organs to pack on the necessary stored energy.

Likely flying with a pack, the young bird then took flight. Researchers used the 5D satellite tag number 234684 attached to the bird to track his progress over the waters. According to the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, the bird passed to the west of Hawaii, eventually flying over the island nation of Kiribati on October 19, 2022. Passing Vanuatu, the bird then flew east of Sydney, continued between Australia’s eastern coast and New Zealand, before arriving in Tasmania on October 25, 2022.

The record-breaking flight stretched 8,426 miles, and took the bird 11 days and 1 hour. The satellite data indicates it did not stop once across this incredible journey. It smashes the previous record set last year by another bar-tailed godwit, 4BBRW, at an impressive 8,100 miles. The Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre in New Zealand, announced this record had been “blown out of the water by this young upstart.” The center had previously made tea towels commemorating last year's miraculous flight, but it would seem new commemorative merchandise is in order.

A bar-tailed godwit has set the world record for bird flight, covering over 8,400 miles over 11 days enroute from Alaska to Tasmania in Australia.

Bar-Tailed Godwit

The lower-right bird is a bar-tailed godwit with “bars” on its wings visible. (Photo: Paul van de Velde via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

The 5-month-old bird—tracked by satellite data—did not stop once during its long journey.

Bar-Tailed Godwit Migration Patterns

Migratory patterns of the five subspecies of Limosa lapponica. (Photo: Onioram via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

h/t: [The Guardian]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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