Pectoral sandpipers go the distance, and then some | Science News

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Pectoral sandpipers go the distance, and then some

Males visit multiple breeding grounds all across the Arctic

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7:00am, February 7, 2017
male pectoral sandpiper

FREQUENT FLIERS  After a long migration from the Southern Hemisphere, male pectoral sandpipers (one shown) fly thousands of kilometers more around the Arctic.

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After flying more than 10,000 kilometers from South America to the Arctic, male pectoral sandpipers should be ready to rest their weary wings. But once the compact shorebirds arrive at a breeding ground in Barrow, Alaska, each spring, most keep going — an average of about 3,000 extra kilometers.

Scientists thought males, which mate with multiple females, stayed put at specific sites around the Arctic to breed. Instead, in a study of 120 male pectoral sandpipers in Barrow, most flitted all across the region looking for females. One bird flew a whopping 13,045 kilometers more after arriving, researchers report online January 9 in Nature.

“We had no clue that they range over such a wide area,” says study coauthor Bart Kempenaers, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany.

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