12 Jan 2010:
Migration of Arctic Terns
Can Reach 50,000 Miles Per Year
Using a tiny device that records location, scientists have tracked the pole-to-pole migration of 11 Arctic terns, discovering that the small birds traveled an average of 44,000 miles a year
, with one completing an annual round-trip journey of 50,700 miles. The new findings show that the Arctic tern migrates
farther than any living thing and that, over the course of the tern’s three-decade lifespan, the bird — weighing just 3.5 ounces — travels 1.5 million miles. That’s equivalent to three round-trips to the moon. The latest study, conducted by an international team of scientists and published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
, used “geolocators” attached to the birds’ legs. The devices, weighing just .05 ounces, recorded the birds’ location by measuring light intensity and day length. The study, which nearly doubled the estimate of the terns’ migrations, showed that after leaving Greenland and Iceland in the fall, the birds fed in Arctic waters before flying south to the Antarctic Peninsula. They followed two routes, along the coast of South America or Africa. The birds then spent the southern summer in Antarctica before returning to the Arctic in April and May, following an S-shaped path to take advantage of wind currents. On the way home, the birds averaged 323 miles per day.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. View the photos.
An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging. Learn more.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
Watch the video.
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.