Saturday, January 3, 2015

Peregrinations of a sassy small sandpiper

Visit a Atlantic coast mudflat in August and I can almost guaranty that you'll see a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  This species is one of the "peeps" - a group of very similar (in both appearance and behavior) shorebirds  that scurry over the bits of mud at the margins of a continent. Semis are also likely to be found on exposed areas of large rivers or flooded grassy areas. 

Despite their behavioral flexibility, semis are declining precipitously: 80% fewer in 20 years. This inspired a multi-organizational study of their movements and breeding biology. To understand movements, geolocators were placed on 192 birds on their breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra. After a year, thirty-five geolocators were recovered containing a log of coordinates recorded over their year-long exploits. 

The story from one individual is remarkable. A male tagged in 2013 flew over 10,000 miles and included one flight bout 3300 miles. That's an incredible physiological feat and I'm looking forward to hearing more about this study. 

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