For migratory birds that spend days flying across continents and oceans, a wrong turn can be fatal — but an unexpected turn has earned one young bird a place in history.
The five-month-old bar-tailed godwit smashed the record for long-distance migration following a non-stop, 11-day flight from Alaska to Tasmania.
The 13,560-kilometre journey beat the previous record — also held by a godwit — by around 500 kilometres and was documented by researchers across the world.
Birdlife Tasmania convenor Eric Woehler said the bird probably lost “half or more of its body weight” during “continuous day and night flight”.
“Short-tailed shearwaters and mutton birds can land on the water and feed,” he said.
“If a Godwit lands on water, it’s dead. It doesn’t have the webbing in its feet, it has no way of getting off the water.”
“So if it falls into the water from exhaustion, if bad weather forces it onto the ocean surface, that’s it.”
How the epic journey unfolded
The bird began its epic journey on October 13 from the sprawling wetlands of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska.
It then flew south-west to the Aleutian Islands, across the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii, down to New Caledonia and through the Tasman Sea.
Dr Woehler said godwits typically travel to New Zealand, but this one took a 90-degree turn and landed on the idyllic shores of Ansons Bay in eastern Tasmania.
He said this “wrong turn” increased the assumed “flight capacity” of the species.
While those living on the east coast are more accustomed to flocks of tourists than birds, local mayor Mick Tucker said the godwit was certainly welcome.