Some warblers make their long winter migration even longer

blackpoll warbler

Some blackpoll warblers living in western North America cover twice the distance flown by their eastern U.S. counterparts by first flying east for a snack before migrating to South America.

S. Morris

Every fall, blackpoll warblers fly from North America to South America in what’s the longest migration route of any warbler in the Western Hemisphere. But some of the tiny songbirds take a detour before making their epic transoceanic leap.

Over 40 years of data from 22,295 birds show that blackpoll warblers (Setophaga striata) living in western North America head east for a pit stop to put on weight, giving the birds the energy stores they need to cross the Atlantic Ocean, researchers report December 9 in the Auk: Ornithological Advances.

For birds that breed farther west in places like Alaska, the eastern stopover means a migration distance that’s nearly twice that of their eastern U.S. counterparts, the scientists find. 

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