It’s a bird… it’s a plane… wait… it’s a bird wearing a backpack!?
That’s correct, bird lovers. This summer, The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Conservation Biology have teamed up again to track the migratory routes of tagged whimbrels from Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Inspiration for this project was born in June 2008 when researchers tracked the flight path of an unforgettable shorebird nicknamed Winnie.
Tagged with a 9.5 gram satellite transmitter — roughly the equivalent of a 200-pound man carrying a lightweight three-pound backpack — researchers expected Winnie to head to breeding grounds in the lowlands of Hudson and James Bays in central Canada.
But Winnie didn’t read the flight plan. Instead, this shorebird flew nonstop to Alaska. In just six speedy days!
Until Winnie’s surprising flight, it was assumed that the birds staging at the Delmarva Peninsula were exclusively from the Hudson Bay population. Winnie’s transcontinental journey to Alaska has forced researchers to rethink the origin of whimbrels using this particular stopover site.
And so we turn to a new batch of whimbrel recruits for answers. Boxer, Fowler, Elki, Indi and Hope (Winnie’s big sister!) have been given their transmitter backpacks and reached their cruising altitudes.
Will they follow expectations and head to Hudson or James Bay? Or will they find a new flight path like Winnie?
You can follow along, watch their progress online and receive daily updates at Wildlife Tracking. Cool Green Science will also be posting updates.
(Image: Tagged whimbrel. Source: Barry Truitt/TNC.)