A very small songbird that spends its summers in the forests of North America has been tracked by scientists over an 1,700-mile journey over the Atlantic Ocean, to the Caribbean, while migrating in the winter to South America, according to a new study.
Researchers were almost certain the blackpoll warbler is making its journey to the Caribbean over the ocean, but until now they had no proof. The scientists attached tracking devices to the birds in the summer of 2013 when scientists.
“It is such a spectacular feat that this half-an-ounce bird can make what is obviously a highly risky journey over the open ocean,” said author Chris Rimmer of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.
The number of these birds has been declining. “Now maybe that will help us focus attention on what could be driving these declines,” he added.
According to results published Wednesday in the United Kingdom in the journal Biology Letters, the warblers, known to be voracious insect eaters, departed near the northern parts of the United States and Eastern regions of Canada and headed directly to the Caribbean.
The results on the blackpoll warblers migration can help scientists understand more about the significance of changing climate, explained Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology who is an expert in migration biology, but was not involved in the study.
“How much energy do they need and if they don’t get it, what happens?” he asked.
An important number of bird species fly great distances over water, but the warbler is not fitting the regular specifications, because it is the only one who lives exclusively in the forest. Most other species of birds that winter in South America fly via Mexico or other parts of Central America.
Scientists tagged 19 blackpolls on Vermont’s Mount Mansfield and other 18 in Nova Scotia. Three of those were caught again in Vermont still having the tracking device attached on their tiny bodies and two others in Nova Scotia.
Four of these warblers departed for the Caribbean between Sept. 25 and Oct. 21 and flew straight to the islands of Puerto Rico or Hispaniola. Their flights ranged from 49 to 73 hours. The fifth bird left Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and flew almost 1,000 miles before safely reaching the Turks and Caicos islands for a short stop before heading towards South America.
An interesting fact is that their return flights north, the birds followed a course along the coast.
Image Source: The Silver Ink