Thirsty Birds ‘Burn The Engine’ In Flight

Joe Palca

Migratory songbirds like Swainson’s thrushes spend their winters in South and Central America. But as spring approaches, they fly thousands of miles north to Canada.

Along the way, these little birds show endurance that would shame even the toughest athletes. They can fly for up to eight hours straight without stopping for food or water.

Scientists know how birds cope without food during the flights: They burn fat. But until now, they haven’t figured out the water question. How do migrating birds avoid dehydration after all that flying?

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A Swainson's thrush flies a mock-migration in the wind tunnel at the University of Western Ontario.

Science/AAAS

A Swainson’s thrush flies a mock-migration in the wind tunnel at the University of Western Ontario.

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