Bird conservation is literally on the radar

Decades of meteorological data are telling the story of Australia’s birds.

Rebecca Rogers from Charles Darwin University

Weather radar can be used to better manage bird populations and potentially save them from extinction, a researcher at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory has found.

Rebecca Rogers has been using weather radar to track the movement patterns of Magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) to demonstrate how the data generated can improve the management of Australia’s waterbirds.

The radars routinely pick up birds in flight, but while the information is a nuisance for meteorologists, it is a boon to ecologists.

“Meteorologists will filter out birds and bats so they can see where it is raining right now, but we can use that data to look at where Magpie geese are and how their movement has changed over the last 10 years,” says Rebecca. “And even better that data is free”

Rebecca and colleagues from The University of Delaware and The University of Notre Dame in the US are mapping the distribution of the geese using the weather radar in Darwin.

The results will reveal which areas are critical for the birds, and how their movement is changing. This in turn informs managers of the best time to undertake population surveys.

The researchers hope the findings will demonstrate how the same technique could be employed by other scientists and conservation managers.

‘’There are more than 60 radars across Australia, collecting data every five to 10 minute,’’ says Rebecca.

‘’The information goes back decades in some places. It’s a huge resource that is going virtually unused.’’

You can read more about Rebecca’s research in her Conversation article: