Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Re-Tern of the Long-Distance Record Breaker

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Re-Tern of the Long-Distance Record Breaker

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia.co.uk

ONE of the world's smallest sea birds has arrived back in Northumberland after a journey which has proved a "tern-up" for the record books.

The Arctic tern, which was fitted with a geolocator device on its leg last year on the Farne Islands, has been found to have covered an astonishing 96,000km - about 60,000 miles) round migration trip - more than twice round the globe.

This is the longest flight ever recorded for a migratory bird. The previous record was held by an Arctic tern from the Netherlands, which had made a 91,000km round trip to its wintering grounds and back.

The study, being carried out by scientists at Newcastle University for BBC's Springwatch programme, has mapped for the first time the incredible annual migration of Arctic terns from the Farne Islands.

Weighing just 100g, the Arctic tern has the longest migration of any bird, travelling to Antarctica for the winter and back to the Farnes, which are owned and managed by the National Trust, to breed in the spring.

Last year, 29 birds were fitted with geolocators by researchers from the university, watched by Springwatch presenter Nick Baker and National Trust rangers.

When the birds arrived back in the Farne Islands this spring, the recordbuster had clocked up 96,000km round trip between Northumberland and its winter home in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica.

"We have been able to track our record-breaking Arctic tern as it flew down the coast of West Africa, crossed into the Indian Ocean and eventually arrived in Antarctica," said Dr Richard Bevan of Newcastle University's School of Biology.

"It's really quite humbling to see these tiny birds return when you consider the huge distances they've had to travel.

"So far, we've managed to catch 16 of our tagged birds from last year and we've seen at least another four birds with our geolocators attached.

"Further analysis of the data from these trackers will allow us to get a better understanding of how the Arctic terns organise their migration and how global climate change may affect their routes. …

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