New BirdCast Dashboard Spotlights the Hottest States and Counties for Fowl Migration


Map of the continental United States showing numbers of migrant birds that passed through in autumn of 2021. Text on image: Iowa 868 million, Missouri 871 million, Texas 836 million, Alabama 872 million, Georgia 913 million.
A BirdCast knowledge compilation depicts the highest states for chook migration throughout autumn 2021. The heaviest visitors was by means of the center of the continent, although states within the northeastern and western U.S. nonetheless obtained a whole lot of thousands and thousands of migrants in a season. Graphic by Audrey Carlsen. Information evaluation by Adriaan Dokter. Migration knowledge from BirdCast and eBird.

Throughout final fall’s migration season, Georgia took the highest prize for many birds— with 900 million birds migrating over the Peach State from August 1st to November fifteenth. However the birdiest evening of fall migration peaked in neighboring Alabama, the place 33 million birds flew over Baldwin County the night of October 16—the best nightly whole for any county.

These bragging-rights stats come from the brand new on-line Migration Dashboard produced by BirdCast, a collaboration amongst scientists on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Colorado State College, and College of Massachusetts Amherst that makes use of climate radar and machine studying to trace and forecast chook migration. BirdCast has been monitoring nightly chook migration through radar throughout the usA. since 2018, however final spring this system launched the Dashboard device to supply real-time migration knowledge on the county stage.

“Lately, we’ve been capable of visualize and forecast the actions of migrating birds on a continent-wide scale,” mentioned BirdCast senior researcher Andrew Farnsworth, a analysis affiliate on the Cornell Lab. “That’s been fascinating, however now you can even get a really feel for what’s occurring in your personal neck of the woods.”

Migration Dashboard offers realtime analytics about nocturnal chook migration, reminiscent of flight pace, path, and altitude. In fall 2021, BirdCast indicated that southern states like Alabama and Georgia had the best volumes of migrating birds, which makes good sense to radar ornithologists like Farnsworth and Adriaan Dokter.

“There’s at all times a bent for migration to pay attention east of the Gulf [of Mexico],” mentioned Dokter, a analysis affiliate on the Cornell Lab and member of the BirdCast workforce. The explanations, he mentioned, lie within the fundamental wants of migrating birds: habitat, meals, and favorable winds.

Watch Your Nightly Fowl Migration in Actual Time

In autumn as birds transfer south from their breeding grounds, they search out giant swaths of forest to shelter and refuel throughout their grueling journeys. Dokter famous that the Appalachian Mountains—that are primarily 1,500 miles of unbroken bushes operating from Canada to the Deep South— is especially engaging for migrants. The mountains gather birds from throughout the East, funneling them to the vary’s southernmost factors in Georgia and Alabama.

Giant numbers of birds additionally migrate by means of Midwestern states like Iowa and Missouri. When flying on favorable tailwinds (that’s, winds blowing out of the north), migrating birds are likely to drift eastward as a consequence of prevailing west-to-east winds throughout the continent. Once more, the birds are pushed towards Georgia and Alabama.

This confluence of bird-migration rivers—the place birds flying down the Appalachians meet birds drifting over from the Midwest—makes the Southeast a hub for nocturnal chook air visitors.

The best-volume bird-migration nights are dictated by climate.

“Birds like to migrate with good tailwinds,” mentioned Dokter. Certainly, the three greatest chook migration nights in fall 2021—on Sept. 22, Oct. 3, and Oct. 16—had been all the results of excessive stress techniques that introduced chilly climate and favorable tailwinds out of the north. However Dokter theorizes there’s a distinction within the make-up of species on these three huge migration nights.

bar chart depicting migration intensity each night of the autumn 2021 migration season.
Patterns in migration visitors throughout autumn 2021. Bars symbolize migration depth every evening of the season, with the three greatest surges taking place round September 22, October 3, and October 16. Graphic by Audrey Carlsen. Information evaluation by Adriaan Dokter. Migration knowledge from BirdCast and eBird.

“It’s very probably the primary peak is extra long-distance migrants,” he mentioned. “Later we see birds that keep within the U.S. to winter.” In different phrases, birds like warblers that migrate all the best way to Central and South America depart first, whereas sparrows and kinglets which have much less floor to cowl migrate later.

As for fall 2022, Dokter says the brand new BirdCast device provides a brand new ingredient to birding the autumn migration. “I’m going to sit down there with Migration Dashboard, go searching, and let the birds shock me,” he says. 

Benjamin Hack’s work on this story as a pupil editorial assistant was made potential by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Science Communications Fund, with help from Jay Branegan (Cornell ’72) and Stefania Pittaluga.


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