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Inspirational bird visits Muri


By Gerald McCormack, Director, Natural Heritage Trust

'World BRIEFS' on the 1st October hailed the Bar-tailed Godwit for inspiring the wing design of the futuristic Lockhead Stratoliner. On the same day, visitors Eila Lawton and Peter Maddison reported seeing the inspirational bird at Muri.

The Bar-tailed Godwits that breed in Alaska during the northern summer spend the non-breeding season in New Zealand. In 2007 a female godwit (E7), with a satellite tracker, left New Zealand and flew non-stop 9,600km to the wetlands of northeast China and Korea. After six weeks of refuelling on marine invertebrates she flew 6,500km to Alaska where she bred and then gorged herself to double her weight with fat. On 30th August E7 left Alaska to fly non-stop for eight days covering 11,700km to land in New Zealand. She completed the longest non-stop flight ever recorded for a bird.

The Bar-tailed Godwit is known as the Kuaka in New Zealand, while it is so rare here that it has no known Rarotonga name. They stop in Pukapuka often enough to be noticed and are known as Kove. Westward, they are uncommon in Samoa and Tonga and common in Fiji and beyond. These tropical birds are thought to have landed because they have run low on fuel or become exhausted in unfavourable winds.

Our Rarotonga visitor not only got tired after flying 9,000km, but it was lucky to drift further eastward than usual and find Rarotonga. It is unknown if it will spend a few weeks refuelling and continue to New Zealand or remain until March and fly northwest to China.