I’m an ornithologist who’s currently looking into the role that vessels play for the displacement of birds.
It’s a well-known fact among ornithologists that exhausted birds take breaks on vessels, sometimes leading to their displacement over thousands of kilometers, occasionally even crossing entire oceans, but the extent of this is not known. I hope to start some kind of citizen science project with seafarers.
Therefore, I am looking here for any seafarers
A) who have stories about birds on their vessels to share with me and
B) who would be interested to keep an eye open for any more birds landing on their vessels and inform me about this.
No bird knowledge on your part is required as long as you have the means to take pictures or send me some kind of description, including size, shape, colouration, behaviour as well as location and time of year.
If this sounds interesting to you, here’s a little more background info:
Birds are often restricted in their range to certain parts of the globe and barriers, such as huge bodies of water restrain them from ever reaching other parts. But if they end up on a ship and manage to find enough food on it, it happens from time to time that birds get relocated thousands of kilometers. There are several scenarios possible:
- A normally sedentary species boards a vessel in a harbour and feeds on grains, etc. until it reaches another harbour. This has been proven for e.g. Sparrows (from Cape Verde to the Netherlands) or Crows (from India to Egypt, the Netherlands or from Russia to the US).
- It’s also possible for migratory landbirds to get blown offshore and do an emergency landing on a vessel. Successful transatlantic travels for a variety of species, including Owls, woodpeckers, sparrows and many more (perhaps even hummingbirds!) have been observed.
- Or a weakened seabird ends up on a vessel (they are often attracted to light at night). Seafarers then might take care of these and set them back free far from their original range.
Many or most birds die during these incidents due to exhaustion and dehydration, but some make it and I’d be happy to hear about both birds that lived as well as deceased ones.
I don’t know the day-to-day life on a ship, but I could imagine that the diversion of occasional “bird watching” on an ocean crossing might be an exciting distraction to some of you. I would be very happy if you contact me if you are interested or know someone who might be (email@example.com).
You are not committing yourself to anything here, I just hope to gain some insight into this topic. I’m not tied to any organization and this is not part of a bigger research scheme yet, but I hope to develop it into scientific papers, where your efforts would of course be highlighted!