Wait what – backpacking birds?

blackpoll photo

Photo by Seabamirum 

Ever heard of birds as backpackers?

The backpackers come in the form of the blackpoll warblers. They are the small but tuneful denizens of the boreal forest that can be found in summer months from Alaska to Newfoundland.

The theory that a 15-gram bird can fly non-stop over water for days is now proven and no longer remains a 50-year-old legend.

A research team led by an ecologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has solved the mystery by outfitting five birds with tiny geolocators that sat on their backs – birdie backpacks – to track their air miles.

The result? The warblers are apparently capable of taking the direct route, flying across the Atlantic for up to 1,721 miles in one go.

Wow. Talk about lasting stamina.

Ryan Norris, a professor in Guelph‘s Department of Integrative Biology who led the Canadian portion of the research, said that it was “the first study to provide direct evidence of the birds’ migration route.”

According to the researchers, the discovery is only an ornithological record setter but may have also addressed the reason why blackpolls are losing six per cent of their population each year. Apparently, it took two to three days for each bird to make the trip. And to prepare for their long voyage, they build up their fat stores so they can fly without needing food or water. Whew! What a tremendous voyage indeed.

So the next time you see blackpoll warblers flying over you, make sure to wish them luck. I sure will!

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