Common Whitethroat – Super Migrator

“The common whitethroat (Curruca communis) is a small dusky-colored warbler that summers in Europe and winters in Africa, Arabia, or Pakistan. Its low weight (14 grams), plain appearance, and scratchy voice belie its migratory prowess. Two ornithologists from the University of St. Andrews, with a colleague in Nigeria, outfitted 40 of the birds with geologgers weighing only half a gram and recorded their flight paths. These lightweight contenders were measured traveling 5,000 km in just 52 days, including 2,000 km nonstop across inhospitable barriers like the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. How’s that for a home run? The scientists published the stats in PLOS ONE: ‘Departures from breeding grounds took place between July and August in a south-westerly direction. During spring migration individuals travelled longer distances at faster rates making its overall duration shorter than autumn migration. We suggest that, while Whitethroats can cross the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea in a single flight, they are likely to refuel before and after crossing.’ The small champions sometimes stop at the bases, but occasionally make home runs. ‘If under severe time constraints, however, individuals can successfully undergo a flight without making stopovers.’”

David Coppedge, “Capabilities of Migrating Birds,” Evolution News & Science Today, Dec. 15, 2022