Highlight Activities: Shorebirds wintering in Southeast Asia demonstrate trans-Himalayan flights.

Migratory birds undertaking journeys of thousands of kilometres between N Asian breeding areas and subtropical, tropical or (occasionally) austral wintering areas face enormous physical barriers to their migrations. The north-south -oriented routes undertaken by birds on their migrations are designated “Flyways”. Birds on the Central Asian Flyway were thought to winter in the Indian subcontinent while South-East Asian winterers were thought to move along the East Asian Flyway and breed in NE Asia.


Using geolocators and satellite tracking devices affixed to two species of migratory shorebirds, we demonstrated for the first time that Singapore played host to shorebird poulations from both flyways  Ten Common Redshanks (Tringa totanus) and five Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) were tracked, of which three and one individuals respectively crossed the Himalayan Mountain range on migration between Singapore and breeding grounds on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and North-Central Russia respectively. Ground elevations based on tracks indicate that all likely reached elevations of 4800 m-5800 m asl on migration with the lowest elevations  possible through Himlayan Mountain Passes being 4225 m asl and 4310 m asl. The Himalayan Mountains may therefore be less of a barrier to bird migration than has been assumed.

Li, D., Davison, G., Lisovski, S., Battley, P. F., Ma, Zhijun, Yang, Shufen, How, Choon Beng, Watkins, D., Round, P., Yee, A., Srinivasan, V., Teo, C., Teo, R., Loo, A., Leong, Chee Chiew & Er, K. 2020. Shorebirds wintering in Southeast Asia demonstrate trans-Himalayan flights. Nature Sci. Rep. 10: 21232. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-77897-z