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An assessment of spatio-temporal relationships between nocturnal bird migration traffic rates and diurnal bird stopover density

Horton, Kyle G., Shriver, W. Gregory, Buler, Jeffrey J.
Movement ecology 2016 v.4 no.1 pp. 1
autumn, cameras, habitats, migratory behavior, migratory birds, monitoring, radar, spring, thermography, traffic, weather
BACKGROUND: Daily magnitudes and fluxes of landbird migration are often measured via nocturnal traffic rates aloft or diurnal densities within terrestrial habitats during stopover. However, these measures are not consistently correlated and at times reveal opposing trends. For this reason we sought to determine how comparison methods (daily magnitude or daily flux), nocturnal monitoring tools (weather surveillance radar, WSR; thermal imaging, TI), and temporal scale (preceding or following diurnal sampling) influenced correlation strength from stopover densities estimated by daily transect counts. We quantified nocturnal traffic rates at two temporal scales; averaged across the entire night and within individual decile periods of the night, and at two spatial scales; within 1 km of airspace surrounding the site via WSR and directly overhead within the narrow beam of a TI. RESULTS: Overall, the magnitude of daily bird density during stopover was positively related to the magnitude of broad-scale radar traffic rates of migrants on preceding and following nights during both the spring and fall. These relationships were strongest on the following night, and particularly from measures early in the night. Only during the spring on the following nights did we find positive correlations between the daily flux of transect counts and migration traffic rates (both WSR and TI). This indicates that our site likely had a more consistent daily turnover of migrants compared to the fall. The lack of general correlations between seasonal trends or daily flux in fine-scale TI traffic rates and stopover densities across or within nights was unexpected and likely due to poor sampling of traffic rates due to the camera’s narrow beam. CONCLUSIONS: The order (preceding or following day) and metric of comparisons (magnitude or flux), as well as the tool (WSR or TI) used for monitoring nocturnal migration traffic can have dramatic impacts when compared with ground-based estimates of migrant density. WSR provided measures of the magnitude and daily flux in nocturnal migration traffic rates that related to daily stopover counts of migrants during spring and fall. Relationships among migrating bird flux measures are more complex than simple measures of magnitude of migration. Care should be given to address these complexities when comparing data among methods.