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A comparison of nocturnal call counts of migrating birds and reflectivity measurements on Doppler radar


  • Andrew Farnsworth,

  • Sidney A. Gauthreaux, Jr.,

  • Donald van Blaricom

Andrew Farnsworth (correspondence), Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA Tel. 607-254-4240, E-mail: Sidney A. Gauthreaux, Jr., Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 296 34, USA. Donald van Blaricom, Strom Thurmond Institute, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 296 34, USA.


Several studies have found that the peak in bird density in the atmosphere during nocturnal migration occurs before midnight, while the peak in vocalizations from migrating birds occurs after midnight, in the hours just before dawn. In a recent study, the patterns of calling from a single species of migrating birds correlated well with the patterns of density estimates of migrating birds. We test the null hypothesis that the patterns of reflectivity measurements and number of vocalizations during nocturnal migration are not related. We sampled radar data and nocturnal flight calls during spring and fall 2000 in northwestern South Carolina and southeastern New York. We analyzed changes in the hour-to-hour patterns of bird density and vocalizations for 556 hours on 58 nights. We also analyzed the night-to-night changes in the patterns of peak hour bird density and peak hour of vocalizations on 32 nights. We found that most of the hour-to-hour and night-to-night patterns of density and vocalization counts are significantly related and reject the null hypothesis. However, despite significant relationships between reflectivity measurements and vocalization counts, a great deal of variation in vocalization counts remains unexplained. These results suggest that factors other than bird density are responsible for the variation in vocalizing by migrating birds.