Oct 02 2010
This is largely a mystery unless birds are banded when they’re young and found again when they’re old.
In North America we know the average and longest age for “city” peregrines because they’re banded as nestlings and frequently found when they die but for most species it is rare indeed to find a banded bird, especially an old one. That’s why the discovery of this whimbrel in the U.K. Shetland Islands was so astonishing.
Whimbrels are costal shorebirds about the size of oystercatchers. They breed on the northern tundra in Europe, Asia and North America and travel nearly worldwide. In recent years they’ve been declining at their breeding sites in the Sheltand Islands so ornithologists began a study of the Shetland Island whimbrels this past summer.
When they captured this bird at Fetlar they were in for a surprise. His bands indicate he is at least 26 years old, the oldest known whimbrel!
Click on the photo to read his story on the BBC website.
(photo by Dr. Murray Grant, linked from the BBC News article. Click on the photo to read the article.)