Elly Pepper is a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the NRDC blog Switchboard. Pepper contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Boom! At the sound of the cannon, we rose frantically from our hiding places and started sprinting toward the water's edge where we had set our net hours before. Just days ago, I had arrived in Canada's Mingan Archipelago National Park to collect information on red knots — a shorebird that boasts spectacular cinnamon-colored plumage during breeding season. As I approached the bird-netting mayhem, I realized I would finally get my chance to see these little flying machines up close.
Referred to poetically as "moonbirds" because some of them fly the equivalent of a trip to the moon and back during their lifetime, these birds are some tough cookies. Each year, they travel approximately 18,000 miles on their 20-inch wingspan — from South America's southern tip to their Arctic breeding grounds in the spring, and then back in the fall — one of the longest migrations of any animal.