Migrating sooty terns threatened by hurricane-force winds, which may increase with climate change
Date: May 11, 2017
Source: Duke University
Stronger and more frequent hurricanes may pose a new threat to the sooty tern, an iconic species of migratory seabird found throughout the Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic, a new Duke University-led study reveals.
The study, published this week in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, is the first to map the birds' annual migratory path and demonstrate how its timing and trajectory place them in the direct path of hurricanes moving into the Caribbean after forming over the Atlantic.
"The route the birds take and that most Atlantic-forming hurricanes take is basically the same, only in reverse," said Ryan Huang, a doctoral student at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study. "That means these birds, who are usually very tired from traveling long distances over water without rest, are flying head-on into some of the strongest winds on the planet."
"This is worrying because we know that as Earth's climate changes, we expect to see more frequent and powerful hurricanes in the future -- meaning that the chances of sooty terns being hit by storms will likely go up," Huang said.
Hurricane season typically lasts from June to November, with peak activity occurring in August and September.