Think you travel a lot? The diminutive red knot probably has you beat, traveling from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego—a distance of 9,300 miles each way—each year. And it does it all under its own steam.
We just added two of these long distance flyers to our Aviary exhibit. You can also view them on our live web cam.
While red knots could put most business travelers to shame, ours have been forced to stick closer to home, due to permanent wing injuries. The pair (a male and female) flew here—in a plane—from the Florida Aquarium, which has hosted them for more than a decade.
Reading up on Red Knots
Red knots (Calidris canutus) are one of the larger sandpipers, and can live to a ripe age. Scientists recently discovered a 21-year-old.
The birds, which grow to 10 inches, can occasionally be seen in local estuaries such as Elkhorn Slough. But these sightings are rare. These mileage champs breed in some of the coldest places in the world, and winter in some of the hottest. While they travel vast distances, red knots depend on certain stops along the way to fuel up, such as in Hudson Bay and Brazil. This can create challenges for the birds if food sources—particularly horseshoe crab eggs—are in short supply due to overharvesting.
“We’re really excited to have them,” says aviculturist Eric Miller. “Though they’re not technically endangered, red knots in some parts of the world are declining, and this is a great chance for people to see them.”
SCIENCE/AAAS: VANISHING FAUNA
Science's special section on vanishing fauna addresses the widely accepted issue that human activity is speeding the demise of many animal species through the destruction of wild lands, the consumption of animals as resources or luxuries, and the persecution of species that humans view as threats or competitors—but the socio-economic drivers of this defaunation can be complex.
This special section highlights Earth’s disappearing animals as well as the complications that arise when humans try to conserve them…
- Defaunation in the Anthropocene
- Reversing defaunation: Restoring species in a changing world
- The empty forest
- An animal-rich future
- Wildlife decline and social conflict…
In his series, The Good Badlands, photographer Guy Tal seeks to show us that though it is often hidden, and may only appear briefly, there is delicate and subtle beauty in abundance for any viewer with patience and desire.
Migration requires dramatic seasonal changes in behavior and physiology, and these changes must be timed appropriately for successful migration. In late summer after nestlings fledge, birds begin to molt, replacing their ratty old feathers with sleek new ones. They also begin to gorge themselves. The flurry of activity around this time of year reflects this frantic, single-minded pursuit of food. The birds’ hyperphagia, or excessive eating, is accompanied by great changes in body weight and composition. The birds get very fat—and then they are gone, en route to their wintering grounds on a journey of several weeks. They spend the winter in warmer climates, where resources are sufficient for survival. In late winter, they grow new feathers again; afterward, there’s another weeks-long period of hyperphagia. When the days get longer and the temperature is just right, they’re off again, migrating to summer breeding grounds. Upon arrival, males establish territories. Pairs form. Nests are built. Soon, eggs are incubating, then hatching, and parents devote almost all of their energy to feeding chicks. If time permits, parents may mate again and have another clutch. Then, the cycle repeats….
Migration likely brings to mind the familiar sight of geese flying overhead in their iconic V formation, honking stridently as they fly toward their faraway goal. But the migration of many birds is a rarely observed phenomenon. Most passerine birds, a group that includes songbirds and groups taxonomically related to them, migrate at night. Nocturnal migration has fascinated scientists and bird enthusiasts for a long time. What are the advantages for birds that migrate at night? How do they do it? When do they sleep? The answers to these questions are as yet incomplete. And often answers only beget more questions. Nevertheless, technological advances have facilitated a recent surge in migration research. A recurring theme of this work is that biological clocks are intimately involved in controlling nocturnal migration.
(Read more via American Scientist)