Cornell Lab Of Ornithology: Now For The First Time, See How Many Migratory Birds Are Passing Over The County

Flocks of migrating Snow Geese at the Kulm Wetland Management District in North Dakota. Krista Lundgren/USFWS

Cornell Lab of Ornithology News:

ITHACA, NYBird migration is one of the greatest mostly-unseen spectacles of nature.

Billions of birds make their incredible journeys under cover of darkness. The BirdCast program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is exploring these unseen movements with its new Migration Dashboard. The Dashboard reveals bird migration in localized detail previously unavailable to the general public.
“With this new Migration Dashboard, you get facts and figures about what’s going on in the skies above you at the county level in near-real time,” Andrew Farnsworth, senior researcher with BirdCast, said. “In recent years, we’ve been able to visualize and forecast the movements of migrating birds on a continent-wide scale, using weather surveillance radar. That’s been fascinating, but now you can also get a feel for what’s going on in your own neck of the woods. We want to elevate people’s abilities to understand bird migration, to talk about migration. There is tremendous potential for learning, here. We don’t come close to knowing all the patterns that you will be able to explore when you look at this tool. It’s very exciting!”

Courtesy/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Dashboard shows how many birds are estimated to have flown over a particular county in the lower 48 states on any given night during migration, update in near-real time. It shows how many birds are currently aloft, how fast they are going, what direction they are headed, how high they’re flying, and how the ebb and flow of their movements during the night compares to historic patterns. If you’re not a night owl, you can catch up with the previous night’s action the next day. The Dashboard does all this using weather surveillance radar to measure the density of a mass of birds. That measure is then turned into an estimate of numbers.
“One of the most compelling things about the new Dashboard is that it’s focusing on a phenomenon that is largely taking place out of sight and most likely when we’re asleep,” said Audrey Carlsen, who led the design and development of the Dashboard for the Cornell Lab. “Massive quantities of living creatures are flying through the night sky. This is our best tool right now to try to understand migration.”

The dashboard lists the most frequently encountered species at a specific time of year and in your county. Courtesy/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Dashboard puts a face on migration—feathered faces—by offering a list of species expected to be passing overhead at the current time and place. Knowing the who, where, and when of migration can lead directly to action.

What are the best nights for turning off lights to prevent attracting birds and risking building collisions? Where is the best location to build wind turbines to avoid killing birds? The information can be used by a wide range of people, from conservationists and biologists, to birdwatchers and nature lovers.

“I can’t wait to see the effect the BirdCast Migration Dashboard will have when people are able to see detailed migration information for their own county,” Ian Owens said, executive director of the Cornell Lab. “I can’t think of a better catalyst for people to find ways to protect those species and habitats.”

Development of the BirdCast Migration Dashboard was funded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, United States Geological Survey, the Amon G. Carter Foundation, Leon Levy Foundation, and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

More Information:
Article: The Basics of Bird Migration

Article: The Evolution of Bird Migration

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