Songbird goes the distance in migration flight

Songbird migration patterns are something that have been debated for years. In fact, it has remained one of the most fiercely debated topics in all of science. On one hand, there has been the group of individuals who believed that the small birds made a flight directly over water – that would have made it one of the most-impressive flights on Earth. On the other hand, there is the group of individuals who believe that the flight was less impressive – likely consisting of land travel that would have been seen as marginal, or average – given the fact that birds migrate – and that isn’t really anything surprising.

However, science has now confirmed that the trip a songbird takes is far more impressive than previously imagined. In fact, a recent study, which utilized GPS tracking – showed that the songbirds make an impressive 1,700-mile journey over open ocean. Even more impressively, the bird makes that journey without taking any breaks along the way.


Specifically, the team looked at the blackpoll warbler and utilized little GPS “backpacks” to determine where the birds were going, and what route they were taking in their journey to South America. Ryan Norris, co-author of the study pointed out that, “This is the first study to provide direct evidence of the birds’ migration route – we found they flew directly over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their wintering grounds in South America.”

To make the continuous flight without stopping for food, or water, the co-author pointed out that, “They eat as much as possible, in some cases doubling their body mass in fat so they can fly without needing food or water.” The team went on to point out that at the end of the day it’s a “fly-or-die” mission for the birds that really comes down to surviving and making it to their destination – or dying along the way. They prepare well for the trip – but by no means do they make the trip easier for themselves by stopping along the way or taking it partially over land.