Bird migration is fascinating. Take the story of Machi, the Whimbrel, for example. She is tracked by researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and this year made an amazing stop over.
Audubon of Florida received an inquiry in April from Libby Mojica, a researcher at the College because they were tracking Machi via satellite transmitter. The Whimbrel had been radioed in Virginia last fall on its southward migration, and while returning from Brazil on April 19, hit a low pressure system in the northern Caribbean that forced her to short-stop in Florida. Of particular concern to Libby was that Machi had landed in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) near Lake Okeechobee. What kind of habitat would she be using? Was she alone? Whimbrels fly in formation to save energy and being alone in an agricultural area could be an ominous sign.
Audubon’s Paul Gray, Ph.D, used a map of locations supplied by Libby and was able to find and photograph Machi on April 22 near the town of Pahokee. He called Libby to report that Machi was indeed alone, walking along the side of a road in the fields, picking through the grass for food. Although these conditions didn’t seem promising for Machi, she returned to Virginia on a non-stop overnight flight on April 29, thus completing a 9,400 mile roundtrip winter journey. Machi fattened up in Virginia for the next leg of her travels, proceeded to the Hudson Bay area for the breeding season, and as of fall 2010, has migrated back to Brazil.
The research at William and Mary is revealing remarkable information about Whimbrel migrations. One bird left Virginia and flew to Alaska, traveling 3,200 miles in about 6 days, on an apparent non-stop flight. It was previously unknown that Whimbrels on the east coast bred in Alaska.
See a map of Machi’s latest whereabouts and visit the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary.