Saturday April 04, 2015

Tiny Warbler Makes a Marathon Migration

A blackpoll warbler with the tiny orange geo-locater backpack just visible on its back.

A blackpoll warbler with the tiny orange geo-locater backpack just visible on its back. ( Vermont Centres for EcoStudies)

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The Blackpoll Warbler is a songbird that weighs only 12 grams. It migrates from Eastern Canada and the U.S. to its wintering grounds in Venezuela. 

For over 50 years, scientists had debated which route the bird actually took to get to South America. Some assumed an over-land route because it had been seen throughout North America in the Spring. But others suggested an Atlantic route, based on anecdotal evidence of the warbler landing on ships during poor weather in the Fall.

By placing tiny geo-locators on several birds, prior to their annual flight south, Dr. Ryan Norris, an Associate Professor of Integrative Biology from the University of Guelph, found the answer.  Blackpoll Warblers fly non-stop for three days over the Atlantic to go south. Their journey of more than 2,500 kilometres is one of the most impressive bird migrations known.

Related Links

- Paper in The Royal Society Biology Letters
- University of Guelph release
CBC News story
Globe & Mail story
- Norris Lab