“Guys, I’m literally just doing my job...”

Think about flying. And how cool it is. That’s inspiring in itself. But what about flying for a very long time? With your own wings. Meet: This really small bird, which researchers say “weighs less than an iPhone” and just made science history for the longest recorded migration: 60,000 miles.

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The Arctic Tern—a type of bird—sojourns every winter from the Farnes Islands of England to Antarctica and back to Farnes. It’s the longest migratory journey of any bird. But there’s one particular bird that stood out when researchers at Newcastle University equipped a group of Arc Terns with tiny tracking devices last year for BBC’s Springwatch:

One bird was found to have made a 96,000km round trip between Northumberland and its winter home in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica.

This is the longest flight ever recorded for a migratory bird. The previous record was held by an Arctic Tern from the Netherlands, which had made a 91,000km round trip to its wintering grounds and back.

Gee. This bird beat that bird by 5,000 km. Not since March of the Penguins have I been this impressed with an animal’s ability to move from one place to another. Such is the beauty of flight. This tiny bird could’ve given up along the way and maybe taken a break. Instead, it soldiered on, soaring through the sky like a tiny bird determined to break a record.

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“It’s really quite humbling to see these tiny birds return when you consider the huge distances they’ve had to travel,” says Newcastle University’s Dr Richard Bevan, “and how they’ve battled to survive.” (“To survive,” I finished in unison.)


Image via Newcastle University