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1,700 Miles! Tiny Warblers Take Epic Nonstop Journey

A tiny songbird that summers in the forests of northern North America has been tracked on a 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer), over-the-ocean journey from the northeastern United States and eastern Canada to the Caribbean as part of their winter migration to South America, according to a new study.

Scientists had long suspected that the blackpoll warbler, which weighs only a half-ounce (12 grams), made its journey to the Caribbean over the ocean. But the study that began in the summer of 2013 when scientists attached tracking devices to the birds was the first time that the flight has been proven, according to results published Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters.

"It is such a spectacular, astounding feat that this half-an-ounce bird can make what is obviously a perilous, highly risky journey over the open ocean," said Chris Rimmer of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, one of the authors. The warblers, known to bulk up by eating insects near their coastal departure points before heading south, are common in parts of North America, but their numbers have been declining. "Now maybe that will help us focus attention on what could be driving these declines," Rimmer said.

A number of bird species fly long distances over water, but the warbler is different because it's a forest dweller. Most other birds that winter in South America fly through Mexico and Central America.

Annual Bird Migration Begins With a ‘Roar’ 2:27

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— The Associated Press