Some Birds use a Hurricane to Fly Fast


Migrating Whimbrels — a type of shorebird — may struggle for hours against winds when trying to cross the Caribbean during hurricane season but get a huge boost as they fly out of storms, report researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Ahead of a large tropical storm last year scientists attached satellite transmitters to one Whimbrel, which they named “Hope”. A statement from the American Bird Conservancy explains what they found.

“She took 27 hours averaging just 9 mph to fly non-stop through the storm to get to the center; then she flew at an average of almost 100 mph for 1.5 hours out the back end, using the power of the storm to ‘slingshot’ her towards land.”

Fletcher Smith, lead biologist on the tracking project, said the study highlights the “truly amazing dynamics of bird migrations”.

“In addition to the simply staggering distances these birds travel — often thousands of miles at a time, nonstop — we are also observing what could be described as jaw dropping physical feats involving storms,” he said in a press release. “These herculean efforts leave the birds exhausted and in need of a safe haven to rest and refuel. Unfortunately there are few of these locations in the Lesser Antilles.”

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