Godwit bird sets new record by flying non-stop for more than 12,000km in 11 days

A bird set a record for the longest non-stop flight covering 12,200 kilometres in 11 days. The bar-tailed godwit bird was tracked by scientists with the help of a 5gm satellite tag, fitted on its lower back.

The bird was flying at an average speed of 55 miles/hour, the bird started from south-west Alaska, USA on September 16 and 11 days later, it arrived at Auckland, New Zealand.

Previously, the longest known non-stop flight was in 2007 by a female shorebird which covered a distance of 11,680 kilometres.

Although not confirmed, it is believed that these godwit birds do not sleep on their journey, which makes their flight non-stop. Instead, they keep flapping their wings all the time.

Additionally, the male bar-tailed godwit bird has the ability to shrink its internal organs owing to which it can travel at a faster speed. Shrinking the organs make the load lighter of the male bar-tailed godwit, who weighs between 190 grams to 400 grams.

Dr Jesse Conklin from the Global Flyway Network suggested that the birds are designed like a jet fighter — long pointed wings and sleek design — which attributes to enhancing the aerodynamic potential, and thus resulting in a better fuel to energy rate.

Dr Jesse says that the birds seem capable of knowing where they are in the world. “We can’t really explain it but they seem to have an onboard map,” he said.

In late 2019, 20 of the godwit birds were caught by Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, situated in the south-east of Auckland. The institute tagged these birds and left them to continue their migration.

Expectedly in March, these birds will start their return flight to Alaska. On their way back, they will be feeding for a month around the Yellow Sea while flying across Asia.

According to Dr Jesse, several birds can take long-routes flights. “So it is not necessarily that this is the only bird capable of it – but it is the only bird that needs to do it,” he said.