Whatever adventure you’re planning this summer, it’s not likely to match the recent journey of godwit #234684. Nicknamed B-6 and weighing less than half a pound, this juvenile shorebird gained fame last October when it flew 8,925 miles nonstop from Alaska to Tasmania in 11 days. The odyssey, which occurred largely over open ocean, was tracked via a five-gram satellite tag attached to the bird’s rump.
Audubon’s online field guide describes the bar-tailed godwit as “big, noisy, and cinnamon-colored.” It is a wading shorebird that feeds along shallow waters and nests among tussocks on Alaska’s tundra. According to Dan Ruthrauff, the U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist who helped tag B-6, the godwit is among 37 shorebird species that regularly breed in Alaska.
Ruthrauff’s crew captured B-6 last summer on the tundra outside of Nome as part of a study to better understand shorebird migrations, which are tied to Pacific weather patterns. In early October 2022, B-6 was on the Kuskokwim Delta south of Nome, probing its long beak into mudflats to fatten-up on mollusks and aquatic insects. On October 13, it bolted for Tasmania, likely as part of a flock.
Ruthrauff says the godwit’s migration is somewhat unique among Alaskan shorebirds but that some other species also make trans-Pacific flights. As for B-6’s fame at such an early age, Ruthrauff says it’s nice to see migratory birds getting the attention.
“We’re happy for the godwits,” he says.