Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

November 3, 2022

A four-month-old bar-tailed godwit known as B6 set a new world record by completing a non-stop 11-day migration of 8,425 miles from Alaska to Tasmania, Australia. This trip represents the longest documented non-stop flight by any animal!

A team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a study to track the migration of juvenile (hatch year) bar-tailed godwits from breeding sites near Nome, Alaska. This study was conducted to better understand how these birds navigate their first migrations from Alaska to wintering sites. This work is part of a larger effort to understand the locations and times of the year where godwits face the greatest threats.

Map showing migration of B6, a juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit from Alaska to Tasmania.
This map illustrates the southward flight of B6, a juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit tracked with satellite-telemetry from Alaska to Tasmania, Australia in October 2022. Copyright: Map created by Jesse Conklin Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

After fatting up on the Kuskokwim Delta, B6 left Alaska on October 13th and arrived in Australia on Oct. 24th. The shorebird was tracked using a 5-gram solar-powered satellite transmitter that was attached to its rump. Scientists used a U.S. Geological Survey metal band and a uniquely coded alphanumeric leg flag to uniquely identify individual birds.

Alaska-breeding bar-tailed godwits annually conduct non-stop migrations between Alaska and wintering sites in New Zealand and eastern Australia, but the movements of juvenile godwits on their first southbound migrations have never before been tracked.

Alaska is a critically important site for the world’s shorebirds. Alaska has an abundance of coastal ecosystems and food resources that provide important breeding and migratory stopover sites for shorebirds. Thirty-seven shorebird species regularly breed in Alaska and most of these species conduct impressive long-distance migrations. As their name implies, shorebirds are intimately linked to shorelines and wetlands, a fact that potentially heightens their vulnerability to climate-related effects attributable to rising seas and diminished wetland functions. Shorebirds rely on interconnected networks of functional ecosystems at sites that often are located thousands of miles apart around the world.

The focus of shorebird research at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center is to help identify important breeding and migratory sites, and to investigate the causes of the declines in many shorebird populations. Information from these studies is guiding conservation efforts and helping scientists and conservation groups to better understand the effects of global-scale threats to shorebirds, including habitat modification and degradation, climate change, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Juvenile bar-tailed godwit in the hands of a scientist. You can see the alphanumeric leg flag with B6.
Juvenile bar-tailed godwit "B6" on the Seward Peninsula near Nome, Alaska.
Juvenile bar-tailed godwit B4 with a solar-powered satellite tag on its back near Nome, AK.
Juvenile bar-tailed godwit B4 with a solar-powered satellite tag near Nome, Alaska.


Related Media

This Alaska-born bird flew 8,500 miles to Tasmania, and we’re still not totally sure how it did it, by Casey Grove, 11/08/22

750 miles per day for 11 days, no rest, by Ned Rozell, 11/03/22

A juvenile shorebird tagged in Alaska flew nonstop for 11 days and arrived in Tasmania, by Emily Mesner, 10/30/22

Juvenile Bird Breaks Nonstop Flight Record, Covering 8,400 Miles in 11 Days, by Pandora Dewan, 10/31/22

Podcast: From Alaska to New Zealand, the bar-tailed godwit, interviewed by Ned Rozell, 1/3/2022

Shorebirds depend on wee slivers of Alaska, by Ned Rozell, 11/4/2021

Scientist holding tracking equipment near Nome, Alaska. Rolling tundra with hummocks and low shrubs with mountains.
USGS collaborator Jesse Conklin (Max Planck Institute) tracks juvenile Bar-tailed Godwits near Nome, Alaska. Researchers tracked birds locally using 0.5-gram VHF radios as part of a study to understand the growth and survival of godwit chicks. 

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.