BirdCast: You Can Now Forecast the Migration of Birds Across the U.S. Just Like the Weather

We talk about the weath­er more often than we talk about most things, oth­er nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na includ­ed. We cer­tain­ly talk about the weath­er more often than we talk about birds, much to the dis­ap­point­ment of ornitho­log­i­cal enthu­si­asts. This could be down to the com­par­a­tive robust­ness of weath­er pre­dic­tion, both as a tra­di­tion and as a dai­ly tech­no­log­i­cal pres­ence in our lives. We can hard­ly avoid see­ing the weath­er fore­cast, but when was the last time you checked the bird fore­cast? Such a thing does, in fact, exist, though it’s only come into exis­tence recent­ly, in the form of Bird­cast, which pro­vides “real-time pre­dic­tions of bird migra­tions: when they migrate, where they migrate, and how far they will be fly­ing.”

Devel­oped by Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty and the Cor­nell Lab of Ornithol­o­gy, Bird­Cast offers both live bird migra­tion maps and bird fore­cast migra­tion maps for the Unit­ed States. “These 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,” says Bird­Cast’s web site.

Unprece­dent­ed in both the kind of infor­ma­tion they pro­vide and the detail in which they pro­vide it, “these bird migra­tion maps rep­re­sent­ed the cul­mi­na­tion of a 20-year long vision, so too the begin­nings of new inspi­ra­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion of bird migra­tion research, out­reach and edu­ca­tion, and appli­ca­tion.”

You can learn more about the devel­op­ment and work­ings of Bird­Cast in the record­ed webi­nar below, fea­tur­ing research asso­ciate Adri­aan Dok­ter and Julia Wang, leader of the Lights Out project, which aims to get Amer­i­cans spend­ing more time in just such a state. “Every spring and fall, bil­lions of birds migrate through the US, most­ly under the cov­er of dark­ness,” says its sec­tion of Bird­Cast’s site. “This mass move­ment of birds must con­tend with a dra­mat­i­cal­ly increas­ing but still large­ly unrec­og­nized threat: light pol­lu­tion.” The goal is “turn­ing off unnec­es­sary light­ing dur­ing crit­i­cal migra­tion peri­ods,” and with spring hav­ing begun last week­end, we now find our­selves in just such a peri­od. Luck­i­ly, our fine feath­ered friends should­n’t be dis­turbed by the glow of the Bird­Cast map on your screen. View live Bird­Cast maps here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Explore an Inter­ac­tive Ver­sion of The Wall of Birds, a 2,500 Square-Foot Mur­al That Doc­u­ments the Evo­lu­tion of Birds Over 375 Mil­lion Years

What Kind of Bird Is That?: A Free App From Cor­nell Will Give You the Answer

Cor­nell Launch­es Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Ani­mal Sounds, with Record­ings Going Back to 1929

Watch “The “Art of Fly­ing,” a Short Film Cap­tur­ing the Won­drous Mur­mu­ra­tions of the Com­mon Star­ling

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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  • Daniel says:

    In the course of one human life­time three Bil­lion birds have dis­ap­peared from north amer­i­can and cana­da.
    Over a quar­ter of all birds.
    This has been echoed by insects, and many oth­er species of ani­mals
    This is the mass extinc­tion event unfold­ing.

  • Daniel says:

    In less than a sin­gle human life­time, since 1970, 3 bil­lion breed­ing adult birds have been lost from the Unit­ed States and Cana­da, over a quar­ter of all birds across every ecosys­tem, loss­es echoed by insects and oth­er ani­mals. This is the mass extinc­tion event unfold­ing.

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