Canada: A group of researchers from University of British Columbia (UBC) have unraveled the mystery of bird migration using GPS trackers. The data collected by the trackers reveal some secrets about where the Swainson’s Thrush song bird goes after the summer. It took a year to them to solve the puzzle.
“What we can do is find a singing male, set up a missed net, play its song to it, catch that bird and then we take one of these light little geolocators and fix that to the back of the bird,” UBC Professor of zoology Darren Irwin said.
A year later they’ve successfully recaptured more than 30 of these songbirds, removed the little back pack and downloaded the data.
“They migrate thousands of kilometers, they do this alone, they do it at night, and they often make it back to the same tree year after year,” one of the lead researchers Kira Delmore said.
The team wasn’t sure about how these small birds could make it all the way to South America at night and by themselves. Hence they looked into their DNA, specifically into one chromosome that seems to indicate which route the birds will take.
“Birds from Pacific Spirit park right here, take the West Coast down to Mexico,” Irwin said. “Birds from Kamloops, the eastern birds, go way down to the southeast of the United States and across to Colombia.”
He said it’s like these birds are pre-wired from birth and it begs the question if salmon also share a similar biology.
“Still quite a mystery so we have a lot more work to do but what experiments, not just in our lab but others, have shown is that they somehow do know where to go and somehow its encoded in the DNA.”