Bar-tailed Godwit breaks record

Saturday, 3 December 2022

  • Estimated reading time 5min

Another record-breaking, non-stop flight by a Bar-tailed Godwit.

Move over E7!

Back in 2007 — possibly for the first time ever — a Bar-tailed Godwit hit the headlines, after a bird, known as E7, was recorded flying non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand — a journey of more than 11,500 kilometres, in 11 days. It was a world record, with the information made available via a tiny satellite transmitter attached to the bird’s back.

Although E7’s globetrotting feat was widely acclaimed around the world, and stood unsurpassed for years, the record has been broken a number of times since then by another Bar-tailed Godwit with a transmitter.

And in 2022, the record has fallen yet again, to another godwit, a juvenile this time, which flew an even more astonishing distance of 13,560 kilometres from Alaska to Ansons Bay, on the north-eastern coast of Tasmania. That distance is longer than E7’s epic journey — much longer — by around 2000 kilometres (to put it into perspective, the extra stretch it covered is about the same as the distance between Melbourne and Townsville).

And this non-stop flight was completed in just 11 days. Indeed, this bird had ample opportunities to stop over for a feed and a rest on a number of tropical islands as it winged its way across the Pacific Ocean, but chose to keep on flapping instead.

Like most of the migratory shorebirds that we see in Australia, Bar-tailed Godwits migrate annually between their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere — which are usually in the tundra of either Siberia or Alaska — to their non-breeding areas in Australia and New Zealand.

It’s been said that the total cumulative distance flown over a lifetime by a Bar-tailed Godwit on its annual migration between Australasia and the northern hemisphere would equate to flying to the Moon and back.

It seems that at least one godwit may be aiming for the stars…