Tiny geolocators track birds flying 1,600 miles across the Atlantic

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Tiny geolocators track birds flying 1,600 miles across the Atlantic

It's easy to prove that big birds like gulls will cross oceans when they migrate, but tiny birds are another matter -- the trackers you need are usually enormous in comparison. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies wasn't daunted, though. It successfully tested extra-small geolocators on blackpoll warblers, migratory songbirds that are too small and light (0.4oz) to shoulder previous sensors. The newer device weighs just 0.02oz, and is no bigger than a dime. As you can see above, it was more of a minor inconvenience than a heavy burden.

The miniscule monitor helped confirm a long-suspected theory about the warbler. As it turns out, the bird flies roughly 1,600 miles non-stop across the Atlantic, from the northeastern US to the Caribbean -- no mean feat when it has to stay airborne for as long as three days. That would have been nearly impossible to know using radar or on-the-ground observers. As such, technology like this might just fill in a lot of gaps in nature studies and help us humans both understand and protect smaller animals.

[Image credit: Vermont Center for Ecostudies]

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