Nussbaumer, R., L. Benoit, G. Mariethoz, F. Liechti, S. Bauer & B. Schmid (2019)

A Geostatistical Approach to Estimate High Resolution Nocturnal Bird Migration Densities from a Weather Radar Network

Further information

Remote Sens. 11: 2233








aeroecology, bird migration, geostatistical modelling, interactive visualization, kriging, radar network, spatio-temporal interpolation map, wather radar



Quantifying nocturnal bird migration at high resolution is essential for (1) understanding the phenology of migration and its drivers, (2) identifying critical spatio-temporal protection zones for migratory birds, and (3) assessing the risk of collision with artificial structures. We propose a tailored geostatistical model to interpolate migration intensity monitored by a network of weather radars. The model is applied to data collected in autumn 2016 from 69 European weather radars. To validate the model, we performed a cross-validation and also compared our interpolation results with independent measurements of two bird radars. Our model estimated bird densities at high resolution (0.2° latitude–longitude, 15 min) and assessed the associated uncertainty. Within the area covered by the radar network, we estimated that around 120 million birds were simultaneously in flight (10–90 quantiles: 107–134). Local estimations can be easily visualized and retrieved from a dedicated interactive website. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that a network of weather radar is able to quantify bird migration at high resolution and accuracy. The model presented has the ability to monitor population of migratory birds at scales ranging from regional to continental in space and daily to yearly in time. Near-real-time estimation should soon be possible with an update of the infrastructure and processing software.