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BirdCast: Migration Data & Forecasting

October 6, 2022

[written by Marsha Collins, posted by Chuck Almdale]

Screensnip from Birdcast introductory page.

Living along the Pacific Flyway, migratory birds are a seasonal delight.  For those who seek additional information about birds on the move to their seasonal grounds, Cornell University’s Birdcast is an important resource.  In partnership with Colorado State University and UMass Amherst, among others, Cornell’s team has created an intuitive interface. Two types of information are available: historic (two years) and current. 

Migration forecasts come from models trained on the last 23 years of bird movements in the atmosphere as detected by the US NEXRAD weather surveillance radar network. In these models we use the North American Mesoscale Forecast System (NAM) to predict suitable conditions for migration occurring three hours after local sunset.”   A primer on the science of using weather radar to detect bird migrations is available here.

This data-rich site supports customization by region and date.  Data covers 2021 and 2022.

Location search is currently limited to the contiguous United States; some parts of the Rocky Mountains are not well covered due to radar interference from the mountains.

On the Migration Dashboard, select either a state or county.  Click the Search icon.

In this example, California was selected.

Current display defaults to the night before the date of your search.

For county-specific locations, enter county name.  Here’s Los Angeles County from October 3, 2022.

BirdCast can issue migration alerts. Here are two cities for Weds. Oct 6, 2022.

Angelinos can sleep in; Great Benders might want to get up and look around.

Archived Data

Selecting St. Louis County, in Minnesota (home to Hawk Ridge on Lake Superior, a major flyway for raptors), and September 1, 2022.

Real-time data is available nightly, providing a glimpse into particular regions of activity.

Available details include:

  • Total birds in flight
  • Flight direction and speed
  • Altitude
  • Expected nocturnal migrants

Consider adding this resource to enhance your birding knowledge.

Written by Marsha Collins

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