Thursday, March 29, 2007

Endurance test for Godwits

It has just been discovered that common migratory wading birds, Bar–tailed Godwits, make a 10,000 klm. non-stop journey from New Zealand to the Yellow Sea, refuel for a month and then head off to Alaska. This is an interesting site with a link to a site enabling tracking of flight paths.

The Godwits take 6-7 days to make this mighty 10,000 klm leap, flying 2 kilometers above sea level. They lose half their body weight during this leg of their migration – the juveniles photographed are obese as they start off their journey from Alaska. The annual return flight from Alaska to Australia/New Zealand keeps the Godwits in continuous summer and helps with their food supply. It is obviously an enormous journey but not by any means the longest – Artic terns fly 35,000 klm. journey between the poles each year though definitely not non-stop.

The Godwit record is quite amazing - up until a few years ago the longest intercontinental, commercial aviation flight was about 14,000 klms.

By the way, the Yellow Sea stopover site used by the Godwits and numerous other migratory birds has been seriously damaged by a South Korean land reclamation project. The landfill, perhaps the biggest in human history has destroyed a wildlife habitat of area 2/3 the size of Singapore. I think it is an environmental disaster although some would see this habitat as expendable in the interests of economic development.

Despite being an economist, who teaches students endlessly about the importance of tradeoffs, I find it difficult to justify the destruction of important and intriguing aspects of our natural environment irrespective of short-term economic priorities. The Asian region, with its rapidly growing populations and economies, is a major area of economic opportunity but is, as a result of not restraining these developments, a significant global threat to migratory bird species and biodiversity generally.

1 comment:

Bigbird said...

you are at one with the birds!