DOI: 10.7717/peerj.15622 ISSN:

A multi-sensor array for detecting and analyzing nocturnal avian migration

Alva I. Strand, Eli S. Bridge, Jeffrey F. Kelly, Phillip M. Stepanian, David J. Bodine, James R. Soto
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Avian migration has fascinated humans for centuries. Insights into the lives of migrant birds are often elusive; however, recent, standalone technological innovations have revolutionized our understanding of this complex biological phenomenon. A future challenge for following these highly mobile animals is the necessity of bringing multiple technologies together to capture a more complete understanding of their movements. Here, we designed a proof-of-concept multi-sensor array consisting of two weather surveillance radars (WSRs), one local and one regional, an autonomous moon-watching sensor capable of detecting birds flying in front of the moon, and an autonomous recording unit (ARU) capable of recording avian nocturnal flight calls. We deployed this array at a field site in central Oklahoma on select nights in March, April, and May of 2021 and integrated data from this array with wind data corresponding to this site to examine the influence of wind on the movements of spring migrants aloft across these spring nights. We found that regional avian migration intensity is statistically significantly negatively correlated with wind velocity, in line with previous research. Furthermore, we found evidence suggesting that when faced with strong, southerly winds, migrants take advantage of these conditions by adjusting their flight direction by drifting. Importantly, we found that most of the migration intensities detected by the sensors were intercorrelated, except when this correlation could not be ascertained because we lacked the sample size to do so. This study demonstrates the potential for multi-sensor arrays to reveal the detailed ways in which avian migrants move in response to changing atmospheric conditions while in flight.

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