Science 16 March 2012:
Vol. 335 no. 6074 pp. 1285-1286
News of the Week
Northern Black Swift Mystery Solved
After years of unconfirmed reports and false sightings in Mexico and Central America, scientists now know where the northern black swift (Cypseloides niger borealis) goes each winter. These elusive birds wing their way from the misty waterfalls of their breeding range in western North America to wait out the winter in the lowland rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon. Jason Beason of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and his team fitted little backpacks containing geolocator tags to four birds from two breeding colonies in Colorado. The 1.5-gram packs recorded light levels over 1 year; the scientists successfully retrieved data from three of the tags and, using standard astronomical equations, converted those data to latitude and longitude to figure out where these birds disappeared to every fall. The scientists plan to tag birds from other breeding colonies throughout their range to see whether they all head to Brazil or if they go elsewhere.