August 7, 2009

Banded bird found 8,000 miles from home

A bar-tailed godwit, a bird banded near Victoria, Australia, was found more than 8,000 miles away in the western Arctic area of Alaska, wildlife experts said.

While tagged birds are sometimes seen in the region where they were released, it's rare to see them so far from a release site, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists said in a release Friday.

While we know that birds from all over the world come to the Arctic to breed, to see a living example first hand is a powerful reminder of the importance of this region, said biologist Steve Zack, who spotted the godwit with biologist Joe Liebezeit.

The banded godwit, a shorebird, was sighted this year while Zack and Liebezeit were searching for dunlins and semipalmated sandpipers tagged three years ago in nearby Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

The dunlins and sandpipers were part of a study to see if birds that winter in Asia carry H5N1 Avian influenza to North America. So far, none of the tagged shorebirds have been detected with the virus, Zack said.