“Arctic Birds Have Wild Rhythms”

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The Story

“Arctic Birds Have Wild Rhythms”
by Helen Fields
June 18, 2013

The Pitch

[Fields notes that she was living above the Arctic Circle in Sweden when she pitched this story.]

Hey! Interested in this? I care because the sun is up 24 hours a day right now, and it is kind of weird.

Animals decide what to do when based partly on when the sun is out. Be active when it’s light, sleep at night–or maybe the other way around. But what about in the Arctic, where the sun is up 24 hours a day? For a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers put radio tags on 142 birds of four species in
Barrow, Alaska, and followed them to find out when the birds were active and when they were inactive.

What they found: a lot of variety. Some birds had a nice regular rest period for a few hours after midnight. Some were active at all hours. Still others acted as if the day was a bit shorter or a bit longer than 24 hours. The researchers speculate that it has do do with their social lives; for example, they noticed that if both parents were caring for chicks, they were on a schedule that meant they traded off foraging during the best times of day.

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