“Me I’ve done a buncha marathons. Once biked 245 miles in one day (Jasper to near Kamloops). XC Ski Marathon 100 miles. But puny compared to the bar-tailed godwit—Click here for a photo. The land bird with the longest migratory trajectory: a 7000 miles non-stop journey from west Alaska to New Zealand (some divert to Australia); over water; and it is unable to rest on water; flies past Hawaii, doesn’t stop, Fiji, doesn’t stop; airplanes have seen them up to 40, 000’; and, this bird is not a glider, but a wing-beater (has to keep beating it’s wings to stay aloft). Takes up to 11 days—could any of us even walk for 11 days?
How does it do that?
- sleep? Yes, “uni-hemispheric sleep” (basically one-half of the brain at a time) (but only a few seconds at a time): dolphins can also do it
- before it gets to the airport for its flight, it undergoes a process called hyperphagia (binge-eating to us non-naturalists, whereby they double their weight; and 50% of total body mass is fat
- their heart muscles and flight muscles increase in size by also 50%
- their digestive organs (stomach, intestines, even liver) shrink dramatically after the gain in weight.
On the way back, but not on the way there, they drop into a rest-stop called the Yellow Sea.
And the life-span of this bird is 25-30 years. They do this annually. And we complain about having to go back down to the basement because we forget something?
Click here for an NPR program that was on the Fresh Air podcast. An interview with ornithologist Scott Weidensaul.
And, given it’s April Fools Day, here’s a news item that the BBC aired a coupla years ago; David Attenborough or sound-alike doing the narration: click here. My suggestion: send to your kids; see who falls for it.