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Birds flying farthest from place to place.


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My understanding is that arctic terns make stops during migrations (at least by 'landing' on water, if not on the land)?

I don't know what would be the longest hop for a bird that normally lands (that is, those that do not eat and sleep on wings).

I know however that a common swift might not land for months. My understanding is that a common swift can migrate to South Africa, spends few months there and then return to Europe without ever landing. (Metallica comes to my mind... "we're off to never never land").

 

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The "non stop" element of flying isn't so much a measure of stamina, as a reflection of feeding method. Birds like swifts can stay aloft for weeks, because their food and water is caught in the air, so they don't have to land to refuel. And they can sleep on the wing because they are so light that it takes hardly any energy to glide around in the dark.

Arctic Terns are similar in some ways. Their food supply is in water, which covers 2/3 of the planet, and doesn't vary in character like land environments do. So they can travel vast distances, and snack as they go.

I'm quite impressed by swans and geese. They are heavy birds, they don't get much help from gliding on thermals, they flap their wings practically the whole way, and they only get to refuel when they reach a suitable stop-off point. And yet they can fly at huge altitude in thin air that would kill a human. Even the common mallard duck can reach altitudes above 20,000 feet. Pretty special for that funny little thing waddling around your local pond. 

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