4.7 km up and at 170 km/h! A Streaked Shearwater survives 11 hours in a typhoon

typhoon
Satellite image of the typhoon approaching mainland Japan, 8 September 2019, from the publication.  Provided by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology

Kozue Shiomi (Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan) reports open access in the journal Ecology on a rare case that implies the upper limit of a seabird’s capacity to tolerate a storm.  A GPS-equipped Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas (Near Threatened) was caught in and survived a huge typhoon, showing swirling flight high (up to 4.7 km altitude) at speeds of 80-170 km/h for 11 hours over the mainland of Japan.

Streaked Shearwater
A Streaked Shearwater in its more normal habitat, close to the sea’s surface

The paper concludes:

“The present study appears to demonstrate an example of the behavior of seabirds at the extreme edge between failure and success of survival during a storm.  Further accumulation of such data would contribute toward an understanding of whether and how seabirds manage to survive frequent but irregular weather events.”

Read a popular account of the shearwater’s ordeal here.

Reference:

Shiomi, K. 2023. Swirling flight of a seabird caught in a huge typhoon high over mainland Japan.  Ecology 104 doi.org/10.1002/ecy.4161.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 13 February 2024

The Agreement on the
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ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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