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Bar-tailed Godwit Migration, Featuring Nils Warnock

An epic journey!

During fall migration, a Bar-tailed Godwit like this one will fly over the Pacific Ocean, making a non-stop flight of 7,000 miles from Alaska to New Zealand. These amazing birds can achieve their epic journeys only after fattening up – along the coast of Alaska in fall, or along the Yellow Sea during spring. However, the food-rich tidal mudflats of the Yellow Sea are disappearing rapidly. Using satellite tags, Nils Warnock of Audubon Alaska studies the godwits’ migration routes – and notes the critical importance of the Yellow Sea.

Full Transcript



Bar-tailed Godwit Migration
Featuring Nils Warnock, PhD

Interview by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Wind and calls of Bar-tailed Godwits]

Right now, a Bar-tailed Godwit is out over the Pacific Ocean making an eight-day, non-stop flight from Alaska to New Zealand. More than 7,000 miles. No rest. No turning back. Only the great open ocean below. [Pacific Ocean, sounds of wind and calls of Bar-tailed Godwits]

Using satellite tags, Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska, studied the godwits’ amazing yearly migration. Here’s what he learned:

“These godwits are epic migrants. We had a bird, E-7, that we had tagged, and she left New Zealand in the spring. She flies non-stop seven days, ten thousand kilometers, to the Yellow Sea. All of the Bar-tailed Godwits of Alaska, they stop at the Yellow Sea.

However, the food-rich tidal mudflats of the Yellow Sea are disappearing rapidly. 

So that really struck…home…the critical importance of the Yellow Sea.

That’s their only stopover site between New Zealand and Alaska is the Yellow Sea.

The birds can achieve these long distance flights only when they have fattened up whether along the coast of Alaska in our fall, or China and Korea in our spring. [Wind and calls of Bar-tailed Godwits]

There’s a lot more to this story at I’m Michael Stein. 


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of Bar-tailed Godwits [132156] recorded by G. Vyn.
Show opens with calls of Bar-tailed Godwits on xeno.canto [82728] recordist unknown.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to   September 2013 / September 2017          Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# yellowsea-01-2013-09-24 yellowsea-01 Marantz V Tracks 241, 242 The IUCN Situation Analysis on Intertidal Habitats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, Yellow Sea.

* assumes air date of August or September

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