"Between seasons, they spend the whole time on the wing: they do not return to land to roost or to rest," said Rachel Bristol, an expert in sooty terns with extensive experience of Bird Island and its breeding colonies; she is currently collaborating with the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour to track around 250 sooty terns. "They obviously do sleep, but they probably sleep for short bursts frequently while flying, and may be able to shut down the two halves of the brain separately so that they are always aware of what is around them." Just as incredibly, she said, "they can clearly spend years airborne: when they fledge, they possibly do not return to land until they reach breeding age, which is around five years old."
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