Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Home SCIENCE Weather data informs migration forecasts on BirdCast

Weather data informs migration forecasts on BirdCast

Over the next two months, hundreds of millions of birds will fly across the continental US on their way to winter nesting grounds. Some fall migrants will travel throughout Mexico, while others will cross the Gulf of Mexico to reach South America.

For the most part, the birds undertake their migration at night, almost invisible in the air. but BirdCastReal-time software produced by ornithologists at Colorado State University and Cornell University takes the nocturnal pace of these animals and turns it into maps that can guide you through the seasonal spectacle.

[Related: These new interactive maps reveal the incredible journeys of migrating birds]

Birdcast uses a combination of radar National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather stations—which detects bats, birds and hatches of mayflies, plus clods and federal weather forecasts to predict migration hotspots. “Songbirds in general move on very wide fronts,” he says. Kyle Horton, an ornithologist at Colorado State University and one of the developers of the program. Radar can pick up individual flocks as they move away from a roost, but from a continent-wide perspective, “you’ll see birds taking off from the landscape basically everywhere except large bodies of water.”

By combining data on what conditions have favored migrations in previous seasons, BirdCast shows the swathes of North America where wind, rain and temperature have made it possible for millions of birds to head south together at once.

how to track birds

BirdCast offers a retrospective of past fall and spring migrations and rapidly updated tools that look to the future.

the live map gives you a night-over-night view of how many birds were in the air across the country and where they were headed, going back to spring 2018. (Brighter, warmer colors mean more birds.) It also allows you to compare a specific date for overnight flights from previous years, and pinpoints when your region is experiencing a migration peak.

To see what’s in store, BirdCast Developers I recommend you start with them three day forecast maps. These offer a national view of forecast migration hotspots, where birds will take off a few hours after sunset, over the next 72 hours.

This weekend, hundreds of millions of birds are likely to take to the air across the Mississippi Basin. BirdCast BirdCast

“Being able to tell how many million birds passed through your state last night is a great thing,” he says. Mike Jimeneza Ph.D. student in Horton’s lab. Not only is this useful to ornithologists or bird watchers, but it helps explain the migrations to ordinary people: Fox 10 news station in Phoenix recently used BirdCast data to represent the migrations along with their weather forecast. .

After that, you can reach out to your state or county on the migration dashboard. This tool shows how many birds crossed a county the night before, based on radar readings, and how many were in the air at the busiest time of the night. And if you’re interested in knowing exactly what species they might be traveling by, the dashboard is integrated with Cornell eBird Databasewhich reveals sightings of common birds from the same time in previous years.

How it helps save birds

Jimenez, whose research focuses on how BirdCast can help protect migratory flocks, says the data is being used by conservation groups to target Campaigns that aim to reduce light pollution. that hurts the birds. Night-flying birds are easily confused by artificial light, especially from glass buildings, which can kill thousands of songbirds in a single night.

“You can focus ‘lights out’ campaigns on those big migration nights, which I think is a huge game changer,” says Jimenez. BirdCast has formed partnerships with local nonprofit organizations across the country, such as Lights Out Texas, which convinced dozens of buildings in Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth to turn off the lights on key nights.

And while skyscrapers and other large reflective buildings present the most significant dangers to migratory birds, recent research suggests that turning off even some small accessories decreases considerably the number of dead animals. If BirdCast indicates a night of heavy migration in your area, you can help by, for example, turning off outside lights. “Individual action really matters on a local scale,” says Jiménez.

“Light pollution is a simple solution, and if we changed it tonight, we would have an immediate impact,” says Horton.

How to watch bird migration up close

BirdCast can help you experience the excitement of fall and spring migration, Jimenez says, whether you’re a birder or not.

The fact that the birds migrate mainly at night does not mean that they are impossible to detect. “I could be on my roof in Brooklyn… and literally hear birds migrating above my head,” says Jimenez. Think of it like an avian meteor shower, except you’re listening. the soft, high-pitched screeches that flocks make as they pass over.

[Related: How to start birding in any US city]

“You can also see the consequences of that if you go to your local park,” where the birds may stop before taking flight again the next night, Jiménez says. “You can almost feel it’s more of a birdie.”

The maps may also show that migratory birds are likely to rely on more habitats around them than expected. “I think migration is such an interesting conservation issue because so many of the conservation issues are far from home,” explains Jiménez. “This is one that literally flies over your house, over cities, over rural areas. They all strangely play a role.”


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