New Mexico migration April 27th

I’ve joined a few birders around the country in posting migration forecasts based on weather radar data. The plan is to try to predict migration conditions from overnight and then use observations from local birders to verify or modify these predictions. Over time, the predictions should get better, but only with your feedback. So if you bird in New Mexico, leave a comment or send me an email with your observations of migraton conditions!

Thanks go to David La Puma, Drew Weber, James Weber, and Mike Mills for writing php and bash scripts to automate this process.

I’ll go into the details in a later post (after the Thesis Draft) about how NEXRAD data can be used to tell if and where birds are migrating at night, but below is an example of a basic radar map for the continental U.S. All the blue circular areas are showing areas where birds (and some bats and insects) are flying.

NEXRAD composite image for May 1st 2008 at 10:25 PM MST

From the Great Plains east, the radar strikingly shows migration. Over the course of a night, blue circles would appear around radar stations, grow bigger, and then decrease in size towards dawn. In New Mexico, the pattern is rarely as obvious. One reason could be the odd radar coverage in the state due to long mountain ranges.

Dark tan indicates areas without NEXRAD coverage. 

Click on any of the images below to view radar loops.


Holloman AFB:

El Paso:


I apologize for not having time to analyze these data and describe what you see in the radar images. I can’t even find my link to a summary of how radar can pick up migrants on images and how we can tell what we see. Next time (The Thesis Draft and other obligations call).

Please send me feedback on when are where you find migrants!

For migration updates in other regions check-

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – The Northwoods BIRDAR by Max Henschell <- NEW!
New England – Tom Auer’s blog
Florida/SE – Badbirdz Reloaded by Angel and Mariel Abreu
PA/Ohio Valley – Nemesis Bird by Drew Weber
NW Ohio – Birding the Crane Creek by Kenn Kaufman
Arizona – Words About Birds by Tim Schreckengost <- NEW!
Pac NW – Birds Over Portland by Greg Haworth
Continental US – eBird BirdCast Forecast & Report by Team eBird

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3 Responses to New Mexico migration April 27th

  1. Peggy says:

    Even though I don’t know much about this, it’s fascinating. Can the data be used for safer locations of wind farms – or is it already being used for that? Just looking at the map and realizing the sheer number of birds it represents is amazing!

    • Matt says:

      Yeah, it’s kind of mind-boggling and hard to believe that there are sometimes millions of birds flying over in one night. Where do they all go? Some radar images do show areas where many birds either take off from or land, and these are often seen along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico or the Great Lakes. I don’t know if the radar per se is used to determine better wind farm sites, but it can’t hurt. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory (run by Kimberley Kaufman, Ken’s wife) has been pushing for more research into placement of smaller wind turbines along the southwestern shore of Lake Eire.

  2. In my research I’m currently using it to identify important stopover habitat for migrants, as well as to determine under which weather conditions birds tend to migrate. We can get altitudinal data as well, which allows us to see under what weather conditions birds choose to use certain atmospheric strata… so, yes, in some ways this data is extremely important for understanding how to better site and operate wind farms.

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