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Waiting for Godwits Part II

We are still waiting for our Bar-tailed Godwits to make the trans-Pacific flight from Alaska to New Zealand. These birds are incredible athletes and like any good athlete, they must get their bodies in perfect condition, as Philippa found out when she spoke to Dr Phil Battley.

Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwit

How Godwits fatten up

55% of their body weight will be fat when they set off.

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Across the globe, thousands of athletes are preparing to migrate to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. Their bodies will now be in absolutely peak condition, having spent all year honing their physique so that they arrive in China in full fitness. However, compared to other athletes in the animal kingdom such as the Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwit, this transformation is paltry.

One male Godwit named D8 is almost ready to make a 11,000 km non-stop flight across the entire Pacific Ocean from Alaska to New Zealand. To make sure he has the energy for this epic flight, he has been feeding to the point where 55% of his body weight is fat. The difference between an unfed bird and a fully fed one like D8 is therefore massive. As Dr Phil Battley from the Pacific Shorebird Research Project says, they become like "bricks with wings".

It is also thought that Godwits adapt the physiology of their internal organs so that they have less weight to lug half the way across the planet. Knots are known to prepare for massive journeys by shrinking their gut by 25% and Dr Phil Battley believes Godwits employ a similar technique. We're hoping that the battery in D8's satellite transmitter keeps working so that we can track him across the Pacific and as soon as a low pressure system moves over the Yukon Delta, Dr Phil thinks D8 will start his migration home. There may not be a gold medal waiting for the Godwits in New Zealand but they can certainly lay claim to having one of the longest non-stop migrations of any animal.

Where is D8 right now?

Find out on the Pacific Shorebird Research Project's map
There are also individual maps for each bird here

Last report: Waiting for Godwits

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