Wondering on Whimbrels

Last week I was in Los Angeles, California and while there I had some whimbrels hanging out with me on the beach (incidentally, that is now bird 138 for my Digiscoping Big Year challenge to help build a Visitor Center for Sax Zim Bog). Whimbrel


These are always cool birds to see--gotta love that beak. But whimbrels have an incredible migration so it's fun to not only enjoy these crazy looking birds but also imagine where this bird has been and what it may have seen.

The Center for Conservation Biology has done some amazing tracking work on these birds--we really didn't know all that much about their migratory route and thanks to transmittors, we know these birds are tough. We've learned that a whimbrel flew into Hurricane Irene and survived...only to be gunned down by lax shooting laws in the Caribbean.

Now that we have an idea of how they get from their breeding ground to their wintering grounds in South America, we need to learn what route they take to get back.  Looks like it's going to be a loop, that they don't go the same way that they came.

According to the website the birds were, "originally captured and marked on the breeding grounds along the Mackenzie River in far western Canada in June of 2012, the birds took a bold fall migration route flying 2,800 miles (4,500 kilometers) to the east coast of Canada in mid-July to stage for 2 weeks before embarking on a marathon 4,300-mile (6,900-kilometer) flight out over the open ocean to the northern coast of South America. All three birds have spent just over 7 months in the extensive tidal system of the Gulf of Maranhao before initiating their migration north."

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The whimbrels left their wintering grounds near Sao Luis, Brazil between April 9 - 13, 2013 and flew nonstop for 95 to 100 hours averaging 40 mph before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. They flew that. Non stop. Wow, maybe all the hassles I deal with in airports are not so bad. Where will these particular birds go? Straight up the continent? Or to the west coast where I saw the whimbrel in the above photo?

So if you ever see a whimbrel, enjoy the crazy madcap design, but also keeping in mind what that bird can fly through...and how many countries it can visit.