Migration forecasts could help prevent wind turbines and buildings from killing millions

first_imgRed-winged blackbirds on the move in Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California Migration forecasts could help prevent wind turbines and buildings from killing millions of birds Mint Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe This automated forecast predicts bird migration intensity based on weather patterns.  Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) By Erik StokstadApr. 5, 2018 , 4:15 PM Email Bird Cast, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Van Doren and Horton 2018, adapted by J. Adams/Science Each spring, billions of birds fly vast distances to spend the summer in North America, most of them traveling at night. It’s a trip fraught with peril: Many slam into wind turbines or brightly lit buildings. Now, a new forecasting system for bird migration could help put an end to millions of those deaths by warning wind farm operators and building managers of incoming migrations 3 days in advance.Although hawks and other large species migrate during the day, most small birds migrate at night to avoid predators and enjoy better flying conditions. The daily legs of these migrations depend heavily on the weather. If conditions are too cold or rainy, migrants hang out in trees until the skies clear. And birds are more likely to continue their journeys when warm air signals an incoming, southerly tailwind. Since 2012, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has made predictions about these migrations by using observer sightings and regional weather reports on its BirdCast website.To scale up and automate these forecasts Benjamin Van Doren, a Ph.D. student at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and Kyle Horton, a postdoc at the Cornell lab, built a computer model of weather and bird migration. They began with weather radar, the only effective way to monitor night-time migrations. Individual birds can’t be detected, but radar can reveal the density of birds in the airspace: 60 to 70 birds per cubic kilometer in a light migration, and as many as 1700 in a heavy one. Van Doren and Horton calculated the number of migratory birds on a massive scale. They analyzed radar images from 143 sites across the continental United States, examining the same half-hour period each night between March and May, the migration season. By looking at records from 1995 to 2017, they also were able to estimate for the first time the average number of birds migrating on any given night across the entire United States: about 200 million, they report on the preprint server bioRxiv. The mass movement peaks at 520 million birds, typically in early May. Next, Van Doren and Horton compared all these movements to the local weather at the time when birds began a particular leg of their journey. They found that air temperature was the most powerful predictor of how many birds would be flying that night. By combining forecasts of air temperature and other factors such as air pressure and wind, they constructed a model that could reliably predict bird movements up to 3 days in the future, and they suspect that longer forecasts are possible. “It’s impressive how precise the prediction is, and how accurate,” says Wouter Vansteelant, a freelance bird migration researcher in Bennekom, the Netherlands, who was not involved in the research.BirdCast is now posting automated forecasts for the entire United States. “This is the most significant update since we first began using radar to study bird movements,” Horton said in a statement. The Cornell team hopes that in addition to telling birdwatchers where and when to spot migratory species, the forecast will help owners of tall buildings know when to turn off unnecessary lights. Moreover, wind farms—some of which employ monitors to watch for hawks and other daytime migrants—might shut down turbines when waves of nighttime migratory birds are about to pass through.last_img read more