DOI: 10.1111/2041-210x.14249 ISSN: 2041-210X

A framework for post‐processing bird tracks from automated tracking radar systems

Jens A. van Erp, Emiel E. van Loon, Johannes De Groeve, Maja Bradarić, Judy Shamoun‐Baranes
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Radar is an effective tool for continuous monitoring and quantification of aerial bird movement and used to study migration and local flight behaviour. However, systems with automated tracking algorithms do not provide the level of processing sufficient to guarantee reliable data. Therefore, post‐processing such radar data is required but often non‐trivial, especially in challenging environments such as open sea.

We present a post‐processing framework that implements knowledge of the radar system and bird biology to filter the data and retrieve reliable, high‐quality tracking data. The framework is split into three modules, each with a specific aim: (I) sub‐setting based on prior knowledge of the radar system and bird flight, (II) improving bird track quality and (III) detecting and removing spatio‐temporal sections of data that have a clear bias for false observations. The effectiveness of the framework is demonstrated with a case study comparing track densities inside and outside an offshore wind farm, and by applying the workflow to a dataset of visually validated radar tracks.

Application of Module I resulted in a dataset of 520.894 bird tracks (19.5% of total data) within a 10.4 km2 area. Additionally, 18.734 tracks were corrected for geometric errors in Module II, and Module III identified 236 of 719 observation hours and an area of 1.55 km2 as unreliable for spatio‐temporal analysis. No difference in track densities was found between the area inside and outside the wind farm when using the post‐processed data, whereas using the unprocessed bird tracks, lower track densities were observed outside the wind farm. Of the visually validated radar tracks, the framework removed 85% of false positive bird tracks, while retaining 80% of true positive bird tracks.

The framework provides a logical workflow to increase the reliability and quality of a bird radar dataset while being adaptable to the radar system and its surroundings. This is a first step towards standardising the post‐processing methodology for automated bird radar systems, which can facilitate comparative analyses of bird movement in space and time and improve the quality of ecological impact assessments.

More from our Archive