Komenda-Zehnder, S., L. Jenni & F. Liechti (2010)

Do bird captures reflect migration intensity? Trapping numbers on an Alpine pass compared with radar counts.

Further information

J. Avian Biol. 41: 434–444



A limitation of standardized mist netting for monitoring migration is caused by the lack of knowledge about the relationship between trapped birds and birds flying aloft. Earlier studies related nocturnal radar counts with trapping data of the following day. In this study, we compared for the first time data gathered simultaneously by radar and mist netting, separately for diurnal and nocturnal migration. Trapping numbers were strongly correlated with migratory intensities measured by radar (r >0.6). A multiple regression analysis, including wind speed and wind direction explained 61% of variation in the number of captures. During the night, and particularly with favourable winds, birds flew at higher altitudes and hence escaped the nets to a higher proportion. The number of nocturnal migrants trapped during day time was well correlated with migratory intensities observed by radar in the preceding night. The diurnal time patterns, however, revealed fundamental differences between trapping counts and radar observations. This was mainly due to increasing and decreasing flight altitudes in the course of the night, and by the limitations of the radar technique that underestimates migratory intensities during the day when birds aggregate in flocks. In relation to the migratory intensity recorded by radar, diurnal migrants are trapped in a much higher proportion than nocturnal migrants. Finally, our results confirm that trapping data from a site hardly used for stopover are well suited to represent the ongoing migration during the day and night.