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article imageThe incredible voyage of the blackpoll warbler revealed

By Tim Sandle     Apr 25, 2015 in Environment
Each fall the blackpoll warbler flies non-stop from Canada, southwards across the Atlantic Ocean to South America, in just three days. What does the bird get up to? A science group have been finding out.
The blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) is a remarkable bird. In the autumn the bird leaves its habitat in Canada or New England in the U.S. and makes a trip down south. In around three days the small but mighty bird lands on the northern coast of South America.
The blackpoll warbler males have dark-streaked brown backs, white faces and black crowns. Females lack the strong head patterns, and their crowns and faces are shades of gray.
During its migration the tiny 12-gram birds (weighing no more than a ballpoint pen) travels between 2,270 to 2,770 kilometers, to make one of the longest transoceanic flights undertaken by a songbird, according to new research. The biologists who undertook the study call this “one of the most extraordinary migratory feats on the planet.”
For the study, in 2013 scientists fitted several of the birds with micro-size geolocation devices. The devices used sunrise and sunset times, which vary with latitude. The devices also used the birds' calorie intake and energy expenditure to assess what happened to the birds’ bodies over the course of the journey.
While the data recorded was interesting and it showed just how plucky the bird is, it remains unknown why the blackpoll travels such an arduous and dangerous route each year.
The research was conducted at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. The research findings have been recorded in the Biology Letters. The research paper is called “Transoceanic migration by a 12 g songbird.”
In related news warblers are useful in relation to crop protection. Stanford University biologists have noted that coffee growers in Costa Rica bolster bird help biodiversity by leaving patches of their plantations as untouched rainforest. In return, warblers, in particular, payback the favor to farmers by eating a deadly coffee bean pest called the borer beetle. This ultimately leads to improved coffee bean yields.
More about blackpoll warbler, warbler, Birds, Migration, Flight
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