Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Flighty and flirty

The red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) is only 7" (18 cm) in length, so the tracking device with which it was outfitted (IMAGE ABOVE) weighs a mere .6 of a gram. But the wafer-thin device has allowed researchers to discover that the waders, native to Scotland and points north, undertake one of the world's greatest bird migrations. The birds that were tagged in Shetland flew across the Atlantic, south down the eastern seaboard of the United States, across the Caribbean, and Mexico, and ended up off the coast of Peru - a distance of 16,000 miles (25,750 km)! Ornithologist were already familiar with the reversed sexual roles of the phalarope. The female is larger with fancier feathers, and after she hooks up with a male and lays 4 eggs, she leaves him to incubate and care for the chicks while she goes off in search of another mate. Malcie Smith of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds applauds, "But it does mean that Mrs. Phalarope can go off and get two broods of chicks off in one short breeding season."

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