A team of investigators has discovered a new hero in the bird world: It’s called a blowtorch and has opened “a highway between the Arctic and the tropics” with a nonstop flight between Iceland and Guinea-Bissau.
It is a “very narrow bridge that we almost call a highway between the Arctic and the tropical areas in the Bijagos,” Guinea-Bissau archipelago, he said.
José Alves is one of the co-authors of the scientific paper explaining the discovery (in an AU partnership with Iceland) and which was published on Wednesday by the journal Nature. The cycle is repeated every year by the bird whose weight is around 350 grams “relatively small for these intercontinental flights”.
The blowtorch, also known in Portugal as the Galician blowtorch (and under the scientific name Numenius phaeopus) “reproduces in Iceland, where it spends three months a year” and then makes the direct flight to the Bijagos Islands in Guinea-Bissau, “ where it spends seven to eight months ”- when in Europe it’s winter. The Bijagos Islands feed the bird before returning north, this time stopping in Ireland and then to Iceland.
The discovery was made thanks to the tracking of the species with a geolocator, a grass-weighing apparatus that attaches to one of the bird’s legs and records the course and timing of the movements. Knowing the blowtorch is important “to understand what the links are” in a long chain that stretches thousands of miles.
“It is fundamental knowledge that is always ahead of applied knowledge and allows us to understand that conserving only here [in Guinea-Bissau] makes no sense without conserving in Iceland,” exemplified José Alves.