Thumbnail image: Adriaan Dokter
[Adriaan] Hello, everyone.
[Julia] Hi. Thank you.
[Chelsea] All right. So it is 12:01. People are still filtering in, but we’re going to get started. So welcome to today’s webinar on BirdCast, when and where birds migrate and I really want to thank everyone in our audience for joining us today. Closed captioning is available. If you click on the closed caption button at the bottom of your screen, you can turn those subtitles on. We are streaming both within Zoom and on to the lab’s Facebook page. So we have two audiences tuning in today. Which is great. It allows us to have a really broad reach so we are excited to have both audiences.
If you want to share the webinar with other people who might not have registered on Zoom, my colleague is going to enter the Facebook page into the Zoom chat so you can send that over to your friends and family and they can join the webinar on Facebook.
So today’s webinar is the latest in a series from the Cornell lab of ornithology’s visitor center. We’ve been highlighting mobile apps, citizen science programs and different projects. Today’s topic is BirdCast. This is between Cornell lab of ornithology, Colorado State University and university of Massachusetts Amherst. This website is one you will want to check frequently. Especially at the start and some places the peak of migration, which we will get into it throughout the webinar.
BirdCast is short for bird forecast. They are literally forecasting the migratory movements of birds on national level. So we will do some introductions. There is three of us today and we will take turns briefly saying who we are. Our role at the lab. And I’m going to kick it off.
So my name is Chelsea Benson. I’m the public program coordinator with the labs visitor’s center. Which means I’m an educator at heart. And my job is to share the lab’s amazing resources with all of you that are joining us in our audience. I really enjoy checking in on BirdCast. Right now it is really exciting and I can’t wait for them to share what they are seeing and predicting. But I’m not intimately involved in the project. So I’m just here to facilitate the conversation with Adriaan and Julia. So Adriaan, you want to take it next and introduce yourself?
[Adriaan] Sure. My name is Adriaan Dokter. I’m a research associate here at lab of ornithology. I am mostly in migration ecology. I study a specific part of the life of birds. That’s when they move around. Each spring and each fall. I joined the lab about four years ago. I have a life-long interest in birds. If you hear a little accent, that’s right. I’m originally from the Netherlands. I grew up in a small city near Amsterdam. Very happy to be in the U.S. now and working with you, with my colleagues here on the BirdCast project.
[Chelsea] Great, Julia?
[Julia] Hi, everyone. My name is Julia. I’m a BirdCast project leader. I joined the lab at the beginning of the year. I primarily help to manage coordinate on the ground conversation effort used for test research in order it minimize. I have a life-long animal lover but a pretty Novemberity birder. I come to the lab with a background in government with particular interest in public policy and conservation.
[Chelsea] Neat, thanks to you both for sharing that. Before we get too far into the webinar, I want to explain to our audience how the webinar works. So in a moment, I’m going to kick off with a series of questions to Adriaan and Julia. So they can get us all on the same page about what is BirdCast and how it works and why there are conservation efforts. Then we will transition to questions from the audience.
So for our Zoom audience, if you have questions, you can add them to the Q&A button at the bottom of your screen. Some of you have already figured out how to do that. You are so Zoom savvy. If you see a question you really want answered, please click the thumb’s up icon because that will upvote that question and will bring it to the top so we see it. We can also type in our responses so we will be periodically answering questions. When we type in a response it goes into that answer column and you can check there.
If you are joining us on Facebook, you can add your comments or questions to the Facebook comment box, and I have colleagues that are monitoring that and sharing those questions with us. So please add your questions and we will get to as many as you can. If you are using the Zoom chat we won’t be answering questions from there, but if you are having technical difficulties, you can answer this question there and my colleagues will help you with that.
So, Adriaan, can you give us a big picture overview of BirdCast? What’s the goal of the project and what are you attempting to do and why?
[Adriaan] Yeah, so, very generally speaking, I would say BirdCast tries to give you sort of the best information on a very important part of the life of birds. And their that is their migrations. Their migrations, they basically happen mostly at night. It is a two spectacle, so each season there are billions of birds moving across the country and migrating over the continent. But it is very hidden theme and almost 80% of species migrated at night and they also fly at very high altitudes so up to 10,000 feet high.
So you don’t really see it and I that I is one thing that we try do is to really bring sort of visualize and bring that information to you so that we can actually see these birds moving. Now, I think radar and weather radar, they can detect birds in the night sky, it doesn’t matter whether it is day or night so those tools, those radars are very central part of our methodology. So I think that on the other hand we also want to do something with this information and that is to use information that we have on migration of birds to make a difference on the ground. And actually try to save some birds. I think a Julia, that is really where Julia’s project comes in and maybe I can hand it over to her to tell us.
[Julia] Yes. Sure. So like Adriaan was saying, in addition to the goal of providing information on mass migration of birds at night, there is also the goal of using that information for conservation efforts or what we refer to as science to action, which is what I primarily focus on. Since we know more birds die during migration than any other period in their life, we need to be particular concerning about threats that occur during migration so the idea is that if we know where birds are going to be during migration on a night tonight basis, then we can communicate that information to the relevant stake holders in advance of these movements and dynamically mitigate hazards that birds might otherwise encounter and we can do so in a very targeted way that balances needs of and minimizes disruptions to the stakeholders.
[Chelsea] That’s really interesting. Thank you for sharing that. Today we are talking a lot about radar maps and forecasts and other really visual things and I can see a lot of questions popping on about what do the color of the maps mean. All that stuff is available on the BirdCast website, which I understand just got a brand-new look yesterday. The latest and greatest for all our audience to see the new website. So Adriaan, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your screen and walking us through what we are looking at and telling us what might be useful for our audience when they look at these maps.
[Adriaan] Yeah. Is this working ? Can you see my screen?
[Chelsea and Julia] Yes.
[Adriaan] Yes. So this is a perfect time, first of September, migration starts to kick off a little bit. The start of the autumn. We have a very nice, our website, has a redesign with many people work very hard to have this come out. In a very short amount of time. And I kind of want to talk to you briefly through all of the different parts of this website. And I would say there are three components to the BirdCast and that’s what we call migration tools. We have forecasts you see here. We have local migration alerts and live migration apps and it goes in reverse order. And starting with height migration maps. So maybe let’s dive into a map of last night.
So this is sort of our base information. Where a lot of the other information and other forecasts are based on. So what you see in all these little green and red dots on this map, those are the weather radar stations of the United States. They are WSR. Weather surveillance radars. These are sort of the same, the same radar you see when you look at the weather map or look at the weather on the news. This tracks hurricanes and tornadoes. And sort of like we sometimes like to say, WSRs are also wildlife surveillance radars. It is not only weather that these radars see. They also detect birds, insects, a lot of any animal that is moving through the air when you pick up as well. So we have all of the little dots which are radar stations. The green is when they are active. Red is when they are down. Here you see in Louisiana, pointing out that the radars in Louisiana are down. And this is where the hurricane past last week. And one of the radars got totally destroyed. So the damage was big. And these are low in the migration maps. So you can play last night’s migration and you can see what is happening in the night sky.
So radar sends out to a big pulse of radial, same as listening to radio on your radio but now it is sort of a pulse that we send out and that the radar detects and can you see where the birds are in the night sky. You see a big and the intense of the colors tells you how many birds are in the sky. And how many birds are migrating while the arrows tell you the direction in which they are flying. And by glueing together the radar offices the whole U.S. can you make the composite maps of migration. So you will see that it is sort of 20 minutes behind realtime. You can really follow what is happening in the night sky. So I see some questions coming by. Actually, what do the colors now mean? And maybe I can spend one word about this, here you see these colors are sort of yellow. And you can read here on the scale what that means.
So there is about 5. And thousands per kilometer per hour. What that means is that if you would draw a line on the ground here of about 1 kilometer wide, and you would wait for one hour and you count all of the birds that they are flying over that one kilometer line that you drew on the ground, up above you and over the night sky, that would give you the number of birds that are passing. In this case, 5,000 birds per kilometer per hour. If you look at the yellow blob, it is about 500 kilometers. So 500 times 5,000 is like, it is 250,000 birds per hour. So it really gives you a way to also put a number on it and to quantify how many birds are migrating through the night sky. And these radars have been running almost 20 years. 25 years is when the radar network was built. And we have a lot of these historical data and a lot of the historical maps. So sort of a second major component in the second migration tool is sort of the forecast that you see at the beginning of the website and sort of the same colors and these forecasts tell you sort of, not what is happening right now or what has happened in the sky but they tell you in advance what we expect for migration to happen. So this for the night of tomorrow, the second video is for the day after tomorrow. And third night is, I’m excited about this night, especially if you live in the midwest, you see this huge bright spot here in the night on the 3rd of September.
And so to give you a bit of an insight of how this works is we have sort of basically these models are built on top of a weather model that tells you how warm it is going to be. Whether the winds are and speed and directions of the wind. And birds are super sensitive to these conditions. They sort of are really clever. They fly when they have good tail winds so they can track efficiently. We have weather maps and observed bird migration that we detect through the radar. And for 20 years we sort of let the computer look at what weather patterns are associated with which bird migration patterns. Then we have sort of this machine leash learning model to predict in advance how many birds are migrating. So you take the weather forecast. We know winds and temperatures. We give that to the prediction model and then we produce this map of when and where birds are migrating. So it is really built on top of weather model and that allows to make the forecasts because the computer has learned which weather conditions are associated with strong migration of birds.
I’m talking a lot here.
[Chelsea] Adriaan, I have a question in the Q&A. Why in the maps are there some black areas?
[Adriaan] Oh, yeah.
[Chelsea] What’s that mean?
[Adriaan] So that happens. Like typically is, this is for example, this is simply no migration can be it. Or for example it is raining. When it is raining, birds don’t fly through areas of rain. But to be honest, we can’t see birds through rain. When it is raining, the station sees no birds any more and it blacks out. So there is either no birds or often when you see sort of limited area, it is sort of heavy Thunderstorm moving through the area and therefore the radar doesn’t see any birds any more.
[Chelsea] Cool. Also people are wondering how do you separate from birds or other biological things like insects and bats and things? How do we know that it is birds that you are seeing on those maps?
[Adriaan] Right. Oh, yeah. This is very good question. So it has been a very long discussion and also in meteorologists and people in the radar. And we in the past didn’t know what they were. So we are very learned that especially at night there’s very strong, yeah, evidence that blocks that you see are dominated by birds. And so there are two options. It is very clear from the signatures of radar that it is biological and one of the main challenges we have is birds or is it insects? And at night it is really dominant to the birds. And can you see that for example on the speed, if you compare the speeds of the radar also the speed of the birds, and if you compared it to the wind for example, you see targets are for the speed of 15 meters per second or like 30 or 40 kilometers per hour. And sometimes even like 60 or 70 miles an hour. You can still see it with the own speed relative to the wind. And if it is like 50 meters per second, that’s much faster than insects could ever fly. That’s how we really sure that these are birds. And not something else.
[Chelsea] Very cool. I’m also wondering and I think it is part of your new website. Maybe you can show us, like the upper midwest will have a really hot migration night in September 3? Like how, if people — like how can people look — yeah, they can look at map, but I think there is an alert can you get for a hot spot for migration? Is that op their website?
[Adriaan] Yeah, that’s right. So if you want to Zoom in for example, this is the first time you see in the midwest, near Chicago, it is super hot. So say if you live in certain city and I will open in Chicago for example. And then you want to know, what the migration where it is going to be. And can you get a summary of those maps specific for your location. For upcoming three nights. And so tonight is not going to be very interesting there in Chicago, very low. Winds are picking up. And especially Thursday you see very high numbers of birds that are predicted to move through this area. So this you can use to sort of zoom in to your specific city and see what the forecast.
Of course we can use that forecast to many — yeah. To make a difference I think and I think this is a big thing and when I give a shout out also to Benjamin and Kyle, both collaborators here at the BirdCast project, who spent time in generating the forecasts. And I think it really changes the game a little bit. That we are able to make a forecast, makes also that you can potentially change something or we as humans can change what we do to be able to make these birds travel safely through the night sky. As Julia said, we know migration is one of the most dangerous periods in the life of a bird and we want to make sure that they continue to do so.
[Chelsea] I think that Julia, if you would speak a little bit more about to maybe the bird watchers in this audience. If they are looking at the maps, do you have any tips for them as they are thinking about going birding ?
[Julia] Yeah. This is something I’m interested in at the moment. To become a better birder. What you want to do here is go to the forecast maps we just checked out. And take a look at the keys. And basically you want to be looking for high migration but not only high migration because that doesn’t necessarily indicate an excellent day of birding so much as birds passing overhead but optimally high migration intersecting with our lines. When those intersect you might see migration fallout and an abundance of birds in one area the next morning.
[Chelsea] That’s a really good tip. So combine the radar with your own weather forecast —
[Julia] Oh, well, sorry to clarify, precip lines are already marked on the forecast. So you just have to check out where the little gray and white lines are.
[Chelsea] Oh that’s right. I did see those gray and white circular lines. So that’s precipitation. So you looking from where it intersects?
[Julia] Yes. With the brighter areas on the map that indicate migration.
[Julia] I think Adriaan will show us.
[Chelsea] Yeah, yeah.
[Julia] A little clarity.
[Julia] That’s why I love this. It is super visual. So sharing this so people know exactly how to use the tools is great.
[Adriaan] Here you see the indication of high or moderate or light for precipitation. And you also bring these observations and precipitation in the live maps but yeah, I have — [ Inaudible ] I think it is important also when you look at a live map for example, the radar show is you when there is a lot of birds in the air, right? And that can mean two things. Like either all of the bird are leaving from your area or they are all coming towards your area. And if you look at the live maps, can you sometimes see that. That is maybe if you see a lot of birds leaving early in the night and a weeding things out in the night, maybe there wasn’t that much of a loss of birds. But it there is a huge pulse and it continues through the whole night and there is a big chance that there is going to be a lot of birds arriving, then I get excited.
[Julia] Yeah, so true. So Adriaan, can you tell us a little bit about what you have learned as you have been studying these bird migrations with radar and forecast? Like what are some of the scientists specific discoveries that your team has made?
[Adriaan] Yeah, so there is a lot. And I think one thing I’ve been interested in is also like how, is there any change over time. And I think that’s a unique opportunity we have with radar data. They go back 25 years. And so you might think, why didn’t we do this ten years ago. Because like, it is just maybe the internet resolution and the fact that so many computers now and so easy the radar dates is huge and you need huge computation and huge storage to actually process and analyze this data. And that’s the day and age that is easier. And that makes so much progress. So one of the things that I have worked on,. — [ Inaudible ] And a little sad story. If do you that every year, and you count how many birds have flown over any area in the U.S., you can see that there is, yeah, that a decline of about a percent per year. And so since about over 10% loss of the number of migrants and of course it is very, that’s a worrying thing, like I think that the radar and weather radar, mostly common birds we are detecting with the radar. And because radar detects almost like the number of kilo grams that pass through. You don’t see individual birds or don’t see any species. It is a net we are measuring. That was a big surprise. And you combine that with — a lot of people heard about the 3 billion birds that were lost. That’s part of that same study where we look at the decline of birds. And another thing that is very interesting is that we also learned like what is the real power of radar data that you can put a number to it? How many birds are moving out of the U.S.? We made a wild guess but it was hard to put a number on it and now we can do that. We can see for example how many birds are flying to south America and leaving the U.S., then the next spring, how many birds are coming back. You will see there are fewer birds coming back. Because they live for half a year. They have been dying. So there’s always mortality. It is compared between spring and fall allows us to look into when and which numbers are birds dying and which numbers, which years are successful breeding years because we see lots of birds coming back. So these things are exciting to be able to look at and I think also what is unique is we now have this really large overview of the whole continent. So we see these biomass flows of birds coming in through the center of the country and then in the fall like sort of take this more easterly route, more through the northeast and sort of these routes of the birds are not the same in spring and fall. And also important if you think about how the high gracing flows intersect like cities and start to pinpoint what are the areas and what are the times of the year when birds migrate through our cities and areas where humans live and when we potentially have the biggest impact on them and might be able to influence them.
[Chelsea] Yeah. I just want to clarify one point. So you are saying the fall and spring migration routes can differ.
[Adriaan] Yeah. For most species.
[Chelsea] That is something that might be surprising for people.
[Adriaan] Yeah. Yeah, so if you think about spring, the real highway through the U.S. is sort of through Texas all wait through the midwest. And then the reason they fly there is they are very good southerly winds typically in this area. So they are very clever. They have free rides. So they go through the center. And then in the autumn it is different. And then the winds are opposing winds and that is not so great any more. I think that the reason they shift towards the east. And maybe also food. There is more green in the east and young birds. And also why we see these patterns are up for debate. It is very clear that it shifts in the fall.
[Chelsea] That’s really interesting. I want to ask Julia a lot of questions about the conservation efforts. But before I do, we have quite a few people from outside of the United States joining us, like from within Canada and central and south America. I’m getting a lot of questions like why is the map so U.S.-specific? Julia, or Adriaan?
[Adriaan] Yeah, like one of the reasons is that I would love to also see birds and radar data from Canada. But we are simply not there yet. And the reason is maybe two-fold. Like a lost countries and the U.S. is very quick with opening up all of their data and public data by the government so we can do this work. It is very important. All of this data is freely available now and that’s why we can do these things. Other countries are moving in that direction. But it is not always so easy to get access to the data. That’s one reason. Another reason is that Canada has different types of radar. So they are operating in a different wave length and there are little differences. And our methods, yeah, we are still working on getting our methods and also it is different types of radar expanding north. We are talking to environment Canada and people there and yeah, I think a lot of people in Canada are also very excited about seeing it happen also for Canada. And it is on our list of things to do and I can’t give you any exact time line.
[Chelsea] Oh, shucks. Well, luckily, it is great to have that collaboration. But we also understand that the technology is different. And you have to establish these relationships with a lot of agencies to be able to do that. So I’m glad to hear it is a work in progress. And that is exciting.
[Adriaan] And also it is happening not only in the U.S., it is also in Europe. That’s where I worked a lot in the past. And with the collaboration and in Europe even like 50 countries where you have to work and it is real challenge because there are all these differences between countries and in a sense we are blessed in the U.S. with such a huge country and so many radars and all the same that makes life easier. And secretly, a little reason why I would do research now in the U.S.
[Chelsea] Can you get some good radar. I hear ya. So Julia, lots and lots of people are asking about conservation efforts. So with all these birds migrating, what can we do? So if can you talk about the Lights Out campaign and other conservation efforts, that would be wonderful.
[Julia] Sure. It ties back to the idea that the most dangerous part of a bird’s life is migration. In order to react to that and safeguard changing habitats and avoiding organisms like birds we need more complex and creative approaches than previous static solutions we’ve tried. So one of the historical challenges in implementing solutions has been the needs of stakeholders which are often diverse and conflicting over the extended periods that birds are migrating during spring and fall because that’s a period of around three months and a lot of people, even if they are willing to help don’t help for that entire period. So now our research provides us this unique opportunity to target effective action in a relatively small window. Approximately 3 to 4.5 billion birds that migrate over the U.S. annually each spring and fall about half of them migrate in a pretty narrow window. Often less than two weeks in duration and furthermore, there is a few nights when this period that exhibit the most intense movements and our migration forecast can predict those. So using those predictions we can mitigate some of these threats. Some threats are light pollution, wind mills, and if we can alert stakeholders, then it could be like, hey, maybe turn off your lights this night. Maybe set your wind mills here or turn them off this night. We can give information to airplanes and be like, hey, this is a flock of birds, maybe you don’t want to fly into them tonight. That allows us to react in realtime to these threats. So so the lab is involved in Lights Out Texas that we just began earlier this year. And that is to address the light pollution component of migration threats. Light pollution, especially in and around cities where light from buildings and other structures disorients migration, it can cause death. Here in the U.S. up to an estimated billion birds Diane you’llly in building strikes and light pollution it implicated in some of that. So of the myriad of threats that birds are facing, this has a pretty simple solution. Just turn off the lights when birds are flying by. But it is a simple solution with a big impact so we are trying to get the word out to people so they know when to help. We focus our efforts in Texas as a tone to particular great risk and great conservation opportunities due to an intersection of enormous bird migration and intense light pollution. So about 1 out of every 3 birds that migrate through the U.S. passes through Texas. And this amounts to an enormous volume of about a billion birds with half of that movement happening in just 19 days on average and in terms of light pollution risk, 3 of the top 10 ranked cities for exposing birds to hazards of light pollution are in Texas, unfortunately. Houston and Dallas ranking number 2 and 3. San Antonio, number 7. And so we really want to let them know, hey, these are when birds are coming by. This is when can you turn off your lights to protect them.
[Chelsea] So you’re focusing on Texas because of it is such a hot spot for migration. But you said you can sign up for an alert but only for those regions, right?
[Julia] Yeah, currently.
[Chelsea] Are there any other cities you are hoping to partner with or what’s the outlook for your campaign?
[Julia] Sure. So on a broader scale, Lights Out has been on a broader scale across the country for decades. Starting in Canada and now there are about 30 campaigns in different U.S. cities. Previously, there wasn’t much in Texas, which is another reason we are focused on Texas. But there are other Lights Out campaigns across the country to better coordinate. We are hopeful that by the end of this that this is just mass alerts and migration information to everyone in the country, really. So we can protect birds on country wide continental scale. And so right now, what we are beginning with in Texas is alerts that go out to people in Houston and Dallas. So we previously, I believe Adriaan was screen sharing our alerts page, and that’s the general migration alerts view of it. There is also a Lights Out view of it, a different link which you can reach from our science to action page in Houston Dallas I letters with particular Houston Dallas, Texas information. When you go on there, there is a little subscribe button so can you subscribe to e-mail notifications of when a high alert is activated and so when that happens we recommend that you turn off your lights. It is, of course, optimal if everyone can turn off their lights throughout migration but we recognize that’s not always possible. If you just want to be e-mail notified of when there is a key migration night then we can do that for new Houston and Dallas. We are looking to do that outwards in the next couple migration seasons.
[Chelsea] That’s cool. I’m think back to when you shows us the map for like your city alerts for peak migration. We don’t have an e-mail notification system for that yet. But if you are checking into see what is happening in your area, and you are like oh, you know, when we looked at Chicago, like the 3rd is going to be just a really big night for migration, like if you’re in that area, it makes sense to take your own personal action it turn off lights and let others know. So really powerful tool. This is a brand-new video produced for the Lights Out campaign that Julia and her team worked on. I’m going to play that. This will take me a second. My screen sharing is a little slow. Not for lack of technology. It is personal. I’m slow.
[“You can help save birds tonight”]
[“Fall migration is underway”]
[“Billions of birds are migrating south at night”]
[“But many will never reach their destinations”]
[“High intensity light confuses birds and draws them into cities”]
[“Countless birds die colliding with buildings.”]
[“Navigating out of a city is also dangerous”]
[“Birds have difficulty recognizing reflections”]
[“A bird may not see the glass obstructing its path”]
[“Around a billion birds die in window strikes every year”]
[“Our BirdCast alerts can tell you when peak migration passes your area”]
[“So you only have one simple action to take for birds tonight”]
[“Turn out the lights”]
[“Sign up for BirdCast Alerts to receive peak migration reports in your area. alert.birdcast.info/lightsout”]
[end of video]
[Julia] Thank you.
[Chelsea] Yeah. I just realized that while that was playing, I don’t think people could hear the audio. But they could see it.
[Julia] Oh, really?
[Julia] The audio sounds so pretty. But for all of you asking about a link to the video. Oh, they could hear it. Okay, good.
[Chelsea] Oh, good.
[Julia] And to address the choppiness on Facebook, if there were any lag issues for any of you, there was for me, this videoant with a been publicly posted yet. We are launching it on Friday. This is a preview. But it’ll be shared on our lab’s Facebook page on Friday and we would be more than happy to see you share that information then.
[Chelsea] That’s awesome. Great. Thank you for sharing that with us. So I’m thinking about, you know, this is like the Lights Out is definitely a big part of protecting birds as they come through cities and other urban environments. That video highlights how much window strikes come into play for migrating birds. Are there other efforts that people can make either themselves on a personal level, like at their homes, or like on a broader level? I know from like a larger scale, like what are some things that can be done to protect migrating birds?
[Julia] On a personal level, the most obvious one, my ask is that you turn off your lights during migration. Particularly during nights of peak migration. That can involve outdoor lights. That can involve just drawing blinds to block out indoor lights. That sort of thing. But start with turning out your lights. Beyond that, you know, we would love to see you asking people in your cities wherever you live, telling your neighbors, telling city officials, building managers, that this is an issue that you care about. Essentially the more public pressure, the more that people respond to these campaigns and take action. So there are Lights Out campaigns. They are in Texas right now. There are other Lights Out campaigns on our website. Can you check them out and connect with a local campaign in your area. They will often have things that you can participate in like collision monitoring so we can gather more data about this problem. And if there’s no effort in your area, you know, can you reach out back to us and we would be more than happy to help connect you to the resources to start something in your area. Because we want to see this grow as much as we can.
[Chelsea] Thank you. I think we are going to start transitioning into some of our Q&A. We have a ton. Which is awesome. So great to see everybody asking questions and thinking deeply on this topic. One thing that comes up a lot is there’s a lot of species specific questions. I know, like you said, Adriaan, is how many birds migrate at once. And we are not narrowing down on a certain specific species of bird and its timing or pathway, necessarily. Could you share with our audience how they might share that information? That might be useful for them.
[Adriaan] Sure. Yeah. I think one important other resource, and BirdCast as you said, is like for the relationship with weather and when birds are migrating and it is fairly unpredictable thing. So short term of when there is moy gracing and if you are interested in a species and species specific roots, there is another lab project, and they own a webinar series, it is a cool project, too. Let me pull it up for a second. And share my screen. Wait, where am I?
[Chelsea] It’s not as easy as it should be, right?
[Adriaan] So just go to ebird.org. The great tool for ebird is a plot form to collect science data. Look at BirdCast and go out, observe your birds and sub met them to ebird and that information helps us enormously in understanding what is happening to these birds. Where they are, what their population trends are. Here is a big list of species that can you go through on the ebird trends page. I have to find a good one. Like the barn swallow for example. And if you go there, then you can see abundance mapes. There is also abundance animation can you click. And it tells you, it extend into south America. Where are these birds migrating through? Can you see the areas of when and where they are. That gives you a good clue. If you have seen something and whether that is a bird that’s out of range or does it actually make sense, this is a good reference to put your observations into process. People submit their observations through ebird and it makes a difference. So use that BirdCast and then go ebirding.
[Chelsea] Yeah. That’s one of the things that, you know, as somebody that works at the lab, that I really love about working at the lab of ornithology, is that while we might have separate projects and programs, they often feed into each other. There is a little bit, you know, like BirdCast is helping in this way and ebird can feed in that way. We are getting a holistic look at birds. Through lots of perspectives. That’s exciting. Thank you for share the trends. If you are in the audience and have you lots of species specific questions, I really encourage you to use that web page because it is very valuable tool to think about where their migration pathways are. Where they are overwintering and where their breeding grounds are. It is a cool look at individual species. Coming through for us, a lot of people might have been surprised that birds migrate at night. We often think of, we see Canada geese for example. We see them flying in a V during the day. But from what you are saying the bulk of birds migrate at night. Can you talk more about night migration?
[Adriaan] Yeah. Even Canada geese migrate at night. But we were hardly aware of it. They are flying super high. And you don’t notice anything. One fun thing to do, can you go out at night, if you have a good migration night, I would encourage you to go out one night and listen carefully and the song birds make little chip notes. You can hardly hear it, but it is like chip. On a good night you will hear a lot of little chips. That is a fun thing to do and some colleagues are working on recognizing on which species the chip notes are. And going back to your question about night migration, there are reasons why birds are doing that. One important is it is an efficient way of spending your time. Can you to fuel your migration. You have to forage during the day and then have the night time free to migrate. Because they cannot forage at night. Also, there are fewer predators. You have a lot of cues, which you can see the stars and moon which birds use to determine where they are and where they have go. It is more information rich at night to know where they are going. So I think the right question is actually why are we seeing birds migrating during the day.
[Chelsea] Flip the question. I like that.
[Chelsea] Yeah, people are asking, so if they are migrating at night, what are they doing during the day. Sounds like you are saying, rest. And it takes a lot of energy to migrate. So they are foraging and restocking their energy. That makes a lot of sense.
[Adriaan] Yeah. And it is much more dangerous during the day. So migrating at night is more safe as well.
[Chelsea] Julia, this question came up and I’m hoping you will be able to answer it. Why are birds attracted to the light in cities? If they are migrating through at night and get super disoriented by the light, what’s going on there?
[Julia] It is still a question we are treeing to answer to some degree. But essentially as Adriaan was talking about earlier, birds use natural light signals to navigate. The stars and moon are helpful indicators for them. When they see artificial light it confuses them and draws them in as insects are drawn in. So we have seen for instance the 9/11 tribute and light in New York city, if you are familiar with that, these giant light beams birds get caught up in them and circle endlessly rather than migrating through. They are pulled off their path a little bit and they end up caught in light and not necessarily where they were meant to be. So what often happens then is birds who are distracted, confused and potentially exhausted will settle in and face urban threats when they fly out again in the morning.
[Adriaan] Yeah, we like the radar base show there is just many more birds than you would expect in urban areas. They are not the best habitat. Especially happens in the fall. Maybe young birds that are naive are thrown into the areas where it may not be the best area for them. An extreme example is New York city. Which is central park, a nice habitat for the area. But there are an enormous amount of birds there surrounded by this desert of concrete where they have nowhere to go. So birds are coming in then only one place to good and that’s to central park. It is one of the best places to see birds, mainly because of that effect.
[Julia] The problem of bird strikes in urban air yes, sir also underappreciated to a great degree, it is not visible to people. A lot of birds that collide with windows are in upper stories or early morning or at night and are swept away by cleaning crews very early in the morning or taken by predators. So a lot of time you’re not seeing the true devastation that occurs.
[Chelsea] I think that some people are asking to revisit like what the other threats are during migration. Sometimes birds die of natural causes. It is a long journey. Maybe sick, injured, not getting enough food. People are asking how does draught affect migrating birds. And fire. Those things are happening across the United States. So there are natural things that impact birds as they migrate. And lot of human named structures we are talking about. I see the question coming up a lot and we are not experts but people want know about wind turbines on migration. Yes, there are strikes on wind turbines. But with BirdCast you can see that when they are coming through. So you can see information to inform people, oh, there’s a big migration coming through right where the turbines are. Can you shut them off for this period of time?
[Julia] Essentially, yes. This is both informing where we site wind turbines and reacting in realtime of the bird migration, that does happen, yes. But it is important to note, because we often do get questions about wind turbines is that while we discuss wind turbines a lot, collisions with infrastructure in urban cities happens a lot more.
[Chelsea] Where you have your biggest impact is buildings with lights.
[Julia] Yes. In terms of estimated annual mortality from collision to birds, wind turbine number is around 350,000 a year. Where as buildings are around 340 million a year.
[Adriaan] There is also still a lot of uncertainty we don’t know. For example, above the ocean and it is very hard to quantify when birds die and then taken away by prey. All these little things that add together and why we see migratory birds are not doing too great. Particularly declining more than other species that are less reliant on immigration. So there is an opportunity there. A great thing is birds like to migrate when there is not so much wind. They don’t like to migrate in very strong winds. So nice calm nights is when the bulk of migration happens and it is not so costly to turn off a whipped farm because there is not so much power to be made. Of course they will take a long time because they need wind migration and I do think there is a possibility there and to do it more smart.
[Julia] I want to emphasize also that turning off your lights at home, while it may not feel like a lot, it is an impactful action to take. Residences account for some 52 million bird collision easier. That’s not an insignificant number. So turning off your lights at home is going to matter.
[Adriaan] And your windows also. Birds collide during the day. It continues during the day. So making your windows safe is another thing.
[Chelsea] Yeah, and I think that maybe my colleagues on the adding some information into the chat and on Facebook, we do have some links about how to reduce window strikes, in addition to turning off light at night, at your home or office, if you are lucky or unlucky enough to not work at an office right now. Many of us are remote. But there is a lot of great action steps that people can take. I want to be cognizant of time. It is 12:59. I love BirdCast gives us a lot of great insights into what is happening in the natural world. In a way that maybe most people wouldn’t have thought about before. Using radar to capture these migrations and to inform policy about Lights Out and things like that. I encourage all of our audience to go to the BirdCast website and really explore it and learn how to use it for their own birding or action to take on their own homes. I think that’s a powerful tool. So I want to thank Adriaan and Julia for joining us. It was really fun chatting with you guys.
[Julia] This was great.
[Chelsea] Was really great. And I feel like I just learned a lot so I hope our audience learned a lot too. I also realize we did not even put a dip in the bucket of questions. Sorry, audience on Zoom and on Facebook. If you didn’t get your question answered. You can send questions to us still. So you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org And BirdCast has a Twitter account. So you can tweet @dokterBirdCast. I’m assuming that goes to you, Dokter.
[Adriaan] DokterBirdCast. I am doctor Dokter but I’m only Dokter on BirdCast.
[Chelsea] So their team can help answer question owns Twitter or e-mail. If you are on Zoom, you will get a follow-up from me later with the recording to this and information about where to look on the websites and e-mail addresses and all that contact information. And also don’t forget the website, BirdCast.info. That’s our show for today. I want to thank everyone for joining us. I hope you are checking out the BirdCast forecast maps throughout this migration season. Thanks again. And happy birding, everyone.
[Adriaan] Happy birding.
[Julia] Thank you.End of transcript
I study the seasonal migrations of birds, from the continental-scale movements of species to the fine-scale behavior of individuals flying through the atmosphere. I use weather radar networks as well as individual tags to address questions in migration ecology, including when and where birds migrate, when and where birds die within the annual cycle, and how shifting patterns in mortality and recruitment of young birds cause bird abundances to change. I also develop software tools for biologists using weather radar as a tool in their research.
I am an ecologist with a background in… Read full bio
With the BirdCast webinar, we’ll get you set up for a fantastic fall of birdwatching! In September and October, billions of birds will migrate from Canada to the tropics—and our BirdCast project can let you know when to expect them around your hometown. How? BirdCast uses weather radar to predict when pulses of heavy migration will be coming through. Research associate Adriaan Dokter and Lights Out project leader Julia Wang will explain how it works and answer your questions.
Learn more about BirdCast at birdcast.info