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Avian airlines: Alaska to New Zealand nonstop

Tracked bar-tailed godwits set new nonstop flight record for birds

7:17pm, October 21, 2008

In an avian flight of epic proportions, a female bar-tailed godwit lifted off from her Alaskan breeding ground and flew south 11,680 kilometers, nonstop, until she reached her winter home in New Zealand. Called E7 by the scientists who monitored her, she flew more than eight days without food, water or rest, on the longest direct flight by a bird ever documented, researchers report online October 21 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“It’s phenomenal that a bird can go that far,” comments conservation biologist Geoffrey Geupel from PRBO Conservation Science in Bolinas, Calif., a conservation organization founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

A research team also tracked eight other bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird, on what researchers call extreme endurance flights. Seven females, which typically have a wingspan of 30 to 40 centimeters, flew an average 10,153 kilometers over, at most, 9.4 days, uninterrupted. That’s the e

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