The following news story from Birdlife International caught my eye this morning, it involves an individual Ruddy Turnstone that has been logged flying 27,000 miles, twice! The bird (photographed below © Huang Ming 2011) fitted with a geolocator, represents the first time a wader has been tracked on its complete migration in successive years (2009 and 2010).
The data retrieved so far shows that the birds generally start their northward migration from Australia in April with an initial nonstop flight of around 7,600 km in six days to Taiwan or adjacent regions where they feed up on the tidal flats before moving north to the Yellow Sea and northern China, then making the 5,000 km flight to their breeding grounds in northern Siberia.
After the breeding season the return migration can be variable, with some birds returning through Asia, with others taking a trans-Pacific route where the bird moves east to the Aleutian Islands off southwest Alaska before making the huge journey across the Pacific, stopping only once or twice before reaching Australia in December after two amazing nonstop flights of 7,800 km and 5,000 km (e.g. Aleutians to Kirabati to Australia or Aleutians to Marshall Islands and Vanuatu to Australia).The reasons for these variable routes is not known, but this does highlight the key regions within the flyway and their need for protection.
In addition, this also shows the importance of ringing birds and especially individually marking birds with flags and geolocators.