Imagine battling a hurricane in the face with no more defense than your own body.
Scientists in the United States recorded this incredible feat by placing satellite transmitters on a species of migratory shorebird known as the Curlew Curlew, Numenius phaeopus.
One of the birds, called “Hope” or “Hope” by researchers at the Center for Conservation Biology of Williamsburg, Virginia, flew for 27 hours against the storm at a speed of 14 kilometers per hour, but after crossing the center Hurricane was driven by the wind to reach about 150 kilometers per hour.
The study reveals “the really impressive dynamics of bird migration,” Fletcher Smith, the lead biologist in charge of the project, told BBC World.
“We have found that the curling curlers can maintain their flight through a hurricane or a tropical storm,” he added.
“We accompanied the transmitters to eight birds that managed to survive the passage through these storms.”
The strength of birds to survive extreme conditions is due to the large amounts of fat reserves that accumulate in their organisms.
“These birds almost double their weight before embarking on a migration. They get fat by ingesting berries in Canada and crabs at stop sites during their trip south, “Fletcher explained.
The curlews studied in this project are reproduced in the Mackenzie River Delta and in Hudson Bay, Canada. In the spring they make stops between the states of Georgia and Virginia in the United States and spend the winter of the Northern Hemisphere in various places from the Caribbean to northeastern Brazil.
A different population of this species breeds in Alaska and spends the winter on the Pacific coast between Mexico and Chile, according to the biologist.
Warlike birds that survive hurricanes can however succumb to a mortal enemy, human action.
Harrier curlers are victims of hunters in the Caribbean, and Smith and his colleagues are working with local organizations to try to protect them on their migratory route.
“In the fall last season we lost two birds with satellite transmitters due to hunters on the island of Guadalupe,” Smith said. “At least in one country, hunters have now committed themselves to voluntarily reducing the number of dead birds.”
Another threat in the Caribbean is the loss of mangroves and bathing and the construction of resorts, so more needs to be done to protect the birds’ natural habitat, according to the US biologist.
“We do not know exactly what the influence of these threats has been on the fall of these bird populations, which have suffered a decline of 50% since the mid-1990s.”
Smith’s research was quoted by the American Bird Conservancy in a statement calling for unregulated hunting on Caribbean sites including the Guadeloupe archipelago, Martinique, Barbados, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname.
“Some local people use the bathed as a hunting site and kill with impunity everything that flies. Among the victims are two trinadors curlers that were being monitored with transmitters and were called Machi and Goshen.
Throughout its life it is estimated that Machi flew more than 43,000 km and survived Tropical Storm Maria. Goshen had flown more than 22,000 km and battled Hurricane Irene. They landed in Guadeloupe, a site they had avoided on other trips, and died at the hands of hunters, “said the American Bird Conservancy statement.
“This indiscriminate killing must be stopped,” said George Fenwick, the organization’s president, who called on the French government to end unregulated hunting in the archipelago of Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory.
Smith plans to continue using satellite transmitters to monitor the migration of these birds, which should be viewed with eyes of great appreciation and respect, according to BBC World.
“I would like the readers of this note to appreciate the huge flights these birds are capable of,” he said.
“We have documented seven flights of more than 5,600 km, including four continuous flights without stops of between more than 6,100 and 6,900 km over the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to South America.”
“The flight of more than 6,900 km took the bird 145 hours, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to northeastern Brazil. Back and forth between their breeding sites and destinations during the winter, these birds make round trips of over 20,000 kms per year! ”