Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mutton birds are faithful to just one mate

While walking through the mutton bird rookery this afternoon, my thoughts back-tracked to yesterday when we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary -- and then to the mutton birds that can live from 35 to 40 years of age, and who are faithful to just one mate.

This remarkable fact is based on information gathered from mutton birds tagged on Fisher Island, in Bass Strait, by Dr Vincent Serventy. At this age, a mutton bird would have flown about 1.05 million km -- a trip to the moon and back is not that far!

Hundreds of thousands of muttonbirds migrate from Phillip Island to Alaska and the Bering Sea every April, returning at the end of September. That they meet up with their mate after such a long migration flight, at the entrance of the same burrow, on the same island, within days of each other, every year -- is amazing.

The fact that mutton birds are so long-lived, faithful to one mate and put all their energy into rearing only one chick per season, perhaps offers us some hints about survival.

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