Bird Braves Irene

A shorebird flies into the teeth of the massive hurricane that hit the US East Coast…and lives to tell about it.

By | August 29, 2011

A whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) though probably not Chinquapin.WIKIMEDIA, ANDREAS TREPTE

As residents clean up from the strong winds and drenching rains brought to the US East Coast by Hurricane Irene this weekend, wildlife biologists are marveling at the tenacity of a small shorebird that flew directly into the storm while migrating from its Arctic feeding grounds to its breeding area in South America.

The bird, a whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) named Chinquapin that had been fitted with radio transmitter as part of an effort to track the migratory patterns of the species, left the Canadian Arctic on Monday (August 22) and flew thousands of miles across the Northeastern US and out to sea before entering Irene's outer bands on Wednesday (August 24), just as the storm—then a category 3 hurricane—lashed the Bahamas. Then the bird disappeared from the sensors tracking its progress. On Friday (August 26), the researchers monitoring the bird’s travels received a transmission from its tag on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. It appears that the bird made it through the storm and is resting before continuing its migration to the coast of Brazil, where it will stay through the winter. "After that hard flight it will likely stage within this site for days before completing its migration to the northern coast of South America," Bryan Watts, director of The College of William & Mary's Center for Conservation Biology and one of the scientists tracking the bird, told USA Today's ScienceFair blog.

You can see Chinquapin's migration map and the maps for other migrating whimbrels at the Center for Conservation Biology's website.

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