August 9, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Birds Excel in Distance, Harmony

Bird feats are outstanding.  Two notable cases were announced this week:

  • Air Marathon:  The longest animal migration in the animal kingdom is performed by the sooty shearwater, reported National Geographic News.  They migrate 40,000 miles a year from New Zealand to the North Pacific, in complex figure-eight patterns that touch the coasts of South America, California Alaska, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and almost to Antarctica.  When crossing the equator they can fly 640 miles in a single day.
  • Choral Wrens:  National Geographic also reported that tropical “Plain-tailed wrens sing what is perhaps the most complex and coordinated birdsong known.”  Groups sing antiphonal renditions of a-b-c-d patterns with 15 variations per phrase.  The males and females alternate the parts.  Researchers found seven birds participating in one of the choruses.  They “are so precise that a casual listener wouldn’t realize there was more than one singer, experts say.” 

See a picture and description of the sooty shearwater at  The NG article on wrens includes a sound recording of their complex concerts.

If birds kept natural history guides, would they publish amazing facts about human feats in airline flight and choral music?  If so, they might remark how wasteful and inefficient our jets are, or how dull and slow our singing is.  But they still might be impressed at how hard we try.

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Birds

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