With the trackers beaming a signal back every couple of days, the Grey Plovers’ migration route—including crucial and previously unknown stop-over sites where the birds pause to ‘refuel’—was soon revealed, and eventually, so were their breeding grounds.
“After weeks of nail-biting as the Grey Plovers migrated northwards from Australia, through the Yellow Sea, we finally have the answers we wanted,” Dr Minton said.
The birds all took different routes after they left Australia in March, as they migrated north along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. The birds from Broome headed straight across South East Asia, while the South Australian birds first had to fly across Australia’s arid centre before reaching Asia. Each bird stopped on the shores of the Yellow Sea, then headed further north for another 3000 kilometres or so to the coast of Yakutia in north-eastern Siberia.
The birds from Broome are now nesting in Yakutia, while the two birds from Adelaide flew even further to nest on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, leap-frogging the birds from Broome in the process. The two South Australian birds flew 13,000 kilometres in 3 months.
“It is interesting that the South Australian birds, with the most southerly non-breeding area, finished up at the northernmost breeding locations [on Wrangel Island],” said Dr Minton. “These are the first birds of any species from Australia which are known to visit this remote arctic island.”
The findings are particularly satisfying for Dr Minton, who had previously predicted that some Grey Plovers wintering in Australia might originate from Wrangel Island.
With the riddle of their breeding grounds now solved, Dr Minton and his fellow researchers are keen to monitor the plovers’ return flight to Australia in a few weeks’ time, hoping to solve another mystery—the route of their southward migration. http://birdlife.org.au/media/riddle-solved-russian-birds-arrive-at-secret-destination/