Climate change is threatening the existence of the world’s most amazing bird

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post:

ScreenHunter_916 Dec. 21 13.40“Moonbird,” they call him. Or sometimes, just “B95” — the number from the band on his leg. Moonbird is the most famous, charismatic member of a group of mid-sized shorebirds called Rufa red knots, whose numbers have plummeted so dramatically in the past several decades that they just became the first bird ever listed under the Endangered Species Act with climate change cited as a “primary threat.”

Rufa red knots are among the avian world's most extreme long range flyers (especially in light of their relatively small size). They travel vast distances — some flying over 18,000 miles — in the course of an annual migration that begins in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and extends all the way up to the Canadian Arctic (and back again).

Which brings us to Moonbird's distinction: Because he is so old — he is at least 21 — he is believed to have flown as many as 400,000 miles in his lifetime. The distance to the moon varies, depending on where it is in its orbit, but the average distance is about 237,000 miles. Thus, Moonbird has not only flown the distance it takes to reach the moon — he has also covered the bulk of the return voyage.

We know Moonbird's age, explains nature writer Phillip Hoose (who has written an eponymous book about him), because he was originally banded in 1995. And even then, he was an adult bird, meaning he was at least 2 years old. Since then, the same bird, with the same tag, is still being spotted, most recently in May 2014 in New Jersey. That would make Moonbird at least 21 years old, a true Methuselah for his species.

More here.