This truly is a remarkable little bird, known as a Northern Wheatear; this bird weighs all of 25 grams or 0.88 ounces, or about two tablespoon of sugar. These little birds make the longest journeys of any small bird. It migrates from Sub-Saharan Africa in Spring over a vast area of the northern hemisphere that includes northern and central Asia, Europe, Greenland, Alaska, and parts of Canada. In Autumn all return to Africa, where their ancestors had spent the winter.
Birds breeding in eastern Canada are thought to fly from Baffin Island and Newfoundland via Greenland, Ireland, and Portugal to the Azores (crossing 3500 km or 2,174 miles of the North Atlantic) before flying onwards to Africa. Other populations from western Canada and Alaska migrate by flying over much of Eurasia to Africa.
Miniature tracking devices have recently shown that the Northern Wheatear has one of the longest migratory flights known – 30,000km or 18,640 miles, from sub-Saharan Africa to their Arctic breeding grounds.
“The Alaskan birds travelled almost 15,000km or 9,000 miles each way – crossing Siberia and the Arabian Desert, and travelling, on average, 290km or 180 miles per day. “This is the longest recorded migration for a songbird as far as we know,” said Dr Schmaljohann.
In the 16th century these birds were called “White-arse” because of their prominent white rump.