Rare bird picked up by Bermuda tracking site

Updated: Oct 12, 2021 07:56 AM

A rare red knot (Photograph supplied)

A rare bird was tracked flying over Bermuda as part of an 18,000 mile migration from South America to the Arctic Circle and back.

The bird, a red knot, was tagged with a tracking device by researchers in New Jersey last August and was tracked to Bermuda a week later as part of an international research programme.

Patrick Talbot, the curator at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo, said: “After passing over Bermuda, the knot was identified at two further tracking stations – on August 30, 2020, in French Guiana, South America, and again on November 12, 2020, when it arrived in its wintering grounds in Bahia Lomas, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, just short of Antarctica.

“Here it would have spent the winter before flying 9,000 miles back to the tundra of the Arctic Circle to nest during the short northern summer – a round trip of 18,000 miles.”

Mr Talbot said researchers were particularly interested in the red knot – a medium sized shore bird – because its population had plummeted because of food shortages.

He added: “This has prompted an international research and conservation effort to study the bird’s staging ecology, migration timing, and routes from critical sites across eastern North America including New Jersey, Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and Nunavut.

“These sites are vitally important for birds preparing for their long-distance southbound flights to Brazil, Argentina and Chile.”

Ron Porter, a BAMZ volunteer who helped with the study, said he was thrilled to find out that a red knot had been recorded near the island.

He added: “Red knots can live up to 20 years banking a total of 360,000 miles in their lifetime.

“This bird is probably on its way back to the Arctic by now with a stopover in Delaware Bay, on the East Coast to gorge itself on horseshoe crab eggs.

“Hopefully, we’ll catch up with this bird again as it journeys south in the fall.”

The bird’s journey was tracked through a monitor located on Trunk Island – part of the international Motus Wildlife Tracking System used to record the movements of migratory birds.

There are more than 1,000 Motus tracking stations around the world, which collect information from 686 research projects that cover 241 species.

Bermuda was picked to be part of the scheme because it was believed the island played an important role for American migratory birds, or for birds pushed off course by bad weather.

Greg Kearns of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, who set up the antenna on Trunk Island in co-operation with BAMZ, said the monitor listened for signals sent by small tracking devices attached to birds.

The tracked path of a red knot from New Jersey to Chile, by way of Bermuda. (Image supplied)

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