Thumbnail image: Nitin Chandra/Macaulay Library

[Chelsea Benson] So welcome to today’s webinar, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We’re going to be discussing amazing migrations of birds across the world, with two experts here with us from the Lab. Before we get started with today’s webinar, which is hosted from Ithaca, New York, I want to read a statement acknowledging the indigenous people as the original inhabitants of this area.

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogohónǫ’, the Cayuga Nation. The Gayogohónǫ’ are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York State and the United States of America. And we acknowledge the painful history of the Gayogohónǫ’ dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogohónǫ’ people, past and present to the land and waters.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a home to a community of researchers and supporters from around the world, who appreciate birds and the integral roles they play in our ecosystems. Our mission is to advance leading edge research, education, and citizen science, that helps solve pressing conservation challenges. Today’s event is part of a series of events, celebrating fall migration running through the end of this week.

Check out all of our other virtual events and recorded programs, by visiting the Migration Celebration website, which we’re posting in the chat and in the comments. So my name is Chelsea. I’m on the Visitor Center team at the Cornell Lab, and I’m going to be facilitating today’s conversation. With us today, we have Laura Kammermeier, who’s the Digital Marketing Manager for the Cornell Lab’s Birds of the World. Welcome, Laura.

[Laura Kammermeir] Hello. Hello, everybody. Thanks for coming.

[Chelsea Benson] We also have with us Benjamin Van Doren. Benjamin is a postdoctoral researcher here at the Cornell Lab. Welcome, Benjamin.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Hi, everyone. Great to be here.

[Chelsea Benson] So thank you both, Laura and Benjamin for taking the time out of your schedules to be with us today. We really appreciate it. I have a couple of really quick tech related announcements for our audience, and then we’re going to jump right into the presentation, so bear with me. Closed captioning is available. And if you’d like to turn the captions on or off, click the CC button at the bottom of your Zoom screen.

For those of you who are joining us on Zoom, you can also click that Q&A button and type in a question that you have for Benjamin or for Laura. We’re going to be answering some of those questions verbally, and for others we’ll type in our answers, which you can find in the answered column. We’re only going to use the Zoom chat to share resources with you, and we’re not really going to be checking it for questions. So again, use that Q&A box.

I have colleagues who are behind the scenes and they’re answering questions, so really thank them for doing that today. We’re also streaming live on Facebook. And if you’re watching on the Cornell Lab’s Facebook page, you can add your questions to the comments. Please be aware that there have been some spam attempts. So if you see a link that’s not posted from the Cornell Lab, it’ll make your life much better if you don’t click it. So only click links from us.

All right, that’s a lot of announcements. So thank you for bearing with me, so let’s get started. Can you– let’s just start with a quick introduction. If you could share a little bit about yourself and your work, I’d really love that. So let’s start with Benjamin, and then we’ll ask Laura to share.

[Benjamin Van Doren] So would you like– Chelsea, do want me to talk about my research as well, or just a quick intro?

[Chelsea Benson] Just a quick introduction, yeah.

[Benjamin Van Doren] OK, great. So as Chelsea mentioned, I’m a postdoc at the Lab of Ornithology. And I work on bird migration specifically, so I’m really happy to be here. And the projects that I work on include, the BirdCast Project, forecasting bird migration. You’ll hear a little bit about that coming up, and some other bits of research related to how birds adapt to a changing world.

[Chelsea Benson] We’re really excited that you’ve joined us, because people have a lot of migration questions, so good to have an expert with us on that. And Laura, could you tell us a little bit about you and your work here at the Lab?

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, absolutely. So as Chelsea pointed out, I’m the Marketing Manager for Birds of the World. And so my job is to help people learn about, and access Birds of the World. I manage the communications and marketing for the project, so thank you Chelsea for having me.

I’ve been a passionate birder since my late 20s, and every year just gets more intense. So really a fan of the birds, but I’m also– I’m really passionate about helping people access important information, so working for Birds of the World is really a perfect fit in that way. So thanks for having me today.

[Chelsea Benson] Of course, so we’ve just said, you work with Birds of the World, but what exactly is Birds of the World? Because we’re going to be using this really great resource today, to talk about migration. So before we do that, could you kind of share a big overview of what this Birds of the World is?

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, absolutely. Do you mind if I share my screen, are we ready for that?

[Chelsea Benson] Yes, please.

[Laura Kammermeir] OK, great. OK, great. So Birds of the World, as you mentioned before, the Lab produces a lot of cutting edge resources, designed to help birders and scientists learn more about birds and bird behavior. So Birds of the World is the latest, and perhaps the most monumental publication we’ve produced so far. It is the largest and most comprehensive, most authoritative resource containing bird information that has been ever made.

So at its core– and let me show you a couple of things here. At its core, are 10,824 species accounts. One for every bird in the world. And so every species account is really deep, like I said, authoritative. It’s referenced by– all the facts and figures in there are references to scientific literature. So if I open up one, I’m just going to enter Canada Warbler. So let’s look at that. It contains life history notes.

Again, details about the life history of this bird, ranging from identification, similar species, and subspecies, if there are any, taxonomic history. Here’s where the subspecies are, the distribution and abundance, habitat, diet, foraging, sounds and vocal behavior. So we’ve got again, the that birds– what sets Birds of the World apart from others, is the depth of the resource and the authoritative nature of it.

But it’s also, what’s really interesting about it is that, it’s integrated with both eBird and Macaulay Library. And so that provides two things, it provides really detailed range maps and distribution and abundance maps. OK, but it also provides really great multimedia collections. So the Macaulay Library is a wildlife media repository library here at the Lab.

And because of that, in our integration, we are able to pull in a lot of media from that. So we’ve got photos, videos, and sound recordings of every bird. And we– so at the top, we have a nice Birds of collection. And at the bottom, you can see an entire multimedia collection starting here.

So right here, we– the editors and the authors of these accounts, they spend a lot of time in the library pulling in images of the bird, and photos and videos, trying to represent the best examples of this bird during the course of its life history. So we have males of females, age classes, sex classes. We’ve got birds and habitat. We’ve got birds on the nest, so what this does is, it gives you a real sharp picture of what that bird is like in the wild.

So yeah, so there is a lot of depth to this. It’s a subscription service that we sell to scientists, and birders who are really keen. And it’s a really good thing to– once you’re kind of in your– as a birder, we start by just really being excited about identifying birds. But once you start having questions about its life history, this is where Birds of the World comes in really handy.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s wonderful. And I just wanted to note for our audience, that Laura mentioned that is, it’s a subscription service. Just because it’s just so– such a encyclopedic resource.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah.

[Chelsea Benson] And it takes a lot of work to put this together, and to keep it running. Can you talk a bit about the subscription?

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got a couple of plans, individuals– and we sell it to both individuals, so it could be anyone in the audience. But we also sell it to organizations, whether it’s an academic library or a non-profit organization. So there’s two types of plans. For individuals, there’s the monthly plan at $7.99 or you can get a whole year for $49.

[Chelsea Benson] Right, and I just saw somebody add to the chat that, if you are a student or you work at an academic institution, often it’s part of your library.

[Laura Kammermeir] You’re absolutely right.

[Chelsea Benson] So you can access it that way too, very cool.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, good point.

[Chelsea Benson] So because we’re focusing so much on migration today, what can Birds of the World teach us about migration?

[Laura Kammermeir] Great, so again, every species’ account has something about the movements and migration of that species. OK, so the Canada Warbler for example, if we go to movements and migration, the Birds of the World scientists give us information about dispersal and site fidelity, a general overview of how the species migrates.

The timing and the routes of it, as well as the migratory behavior, speed, method of orientation, response to weather, the degree of flocking. So you really have a really detailed overview. But then again, that’s where the eBird maps come in and are so powerful for this resource.

So based on eBirder observations, all the way in the new world, this– the eBird scientists are able to put together these maps showing animated migrations from South to North, during the course of this species’ life. So here we are in Northwest, South America, crawling up Mexico and then Central America, and going– and eventually dispersing as high as Canada. So it’s really, really fascinating what these two things can do together.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s so great. Thank you for sharing that, Laura. We’re going to turn our focus to Benjamin, as our migration expert on the panel today. And you mentioned previously, that your research really does focus on different aspects of migration. And I’d love for you to share with our audience what you’re studying.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Happy to, Chelsea. So as I mentioned briefly, I work in large part with the BirdCast Project here at Cornell. And the BirdCast– the goal of BirdCast is to analyze and predict, forecast bird migration across the United States and across the world. So here we’re looking at the home page of our BirdCast website,

And every day during the migration season, let’s scroll down just a bit lower, we can see the nightly migration forecast for the United States. So here is tonight’s forecast. We’re predicting a large pulse of migration in the center of the country, those really bright yellows and whites. And it looks like we’re expecting nearly 400 million birds to be taking flight tonight, so we’re really in the peak of migration right now.

I’m not going to focus on migration. Right, sorry, on BirdCast right now, but you can hear more about BirdCast at a dedicated webinar on Friday I believe, at 12:00 PM Eastern and there should be a link in the chat for that. A lot of my other research, relates to how birds are responding to climate change and other environmental changes. And some research I did recently in Europe, involved this species, that Eurasian blackcap. We’re looking at the Birds of the World page and photos now.

And this is a really sleek gray Warbler, would fit in your hand very easily. The males have this black cap. The females a brown cap, it’s where it gets its name from. And the animated eBird map for this species, I think we have it available. Yeah, it shows how they spend the summer in Europe.

Right now, it’s the winter time and now they’re dispersing North for the summer. Spend the summer across Europe, those dark purples and then migrate South to areas around the Mediterranean and Northwest Africa for the winter. So we can see that really clearly in this global urban model, which I think is really cool.

And I also just wanted to highlight some of my research specifically. So I was involved in tracking these black caps with miniature tracking devices, and our research is focused on birds that spend the winter in the UK, which they’ve only been doing in the recent few decades. And we think this is in response to climate change, warmer winters and more bird feeding.

And those blue arrows on the slide you’re seeing now, show the migration routes of these birds that spend the summer in Europe, as you saw on the eBird map. But instead of migrating South, they actually are migrating Northwest through the UK. And each of those black line’s connecting one solid dot to a hollow dot.

So one individual that we tracked from Western Europe, to its wintering areas in the UK. So some really cool migration behavior there. And for this research, I also wanted to mention, I took advantage of Birds of the World when I was learning about black caps, the start of this project. And it’s such a great resource, that it had information that helped me get going and learn about all the detailed, not only information, but important references for my scientific work.

[Laura Kammermeir] And what’s neat is, while Ben is basically using Birds of the World as a resource, with his work as published as it is, then the next revision of this species account, Ben’s research will make it into the species account as well. So if you look at the references, you’re going to see Benjamin’s name there. So it goes both ways.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s so great, that it kind of updates as the research comes out. So it’s going to have the most current information. How often do those revisions take place, Laura? I’m just curious.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah. Well, with 10,800 species, it’s never fast enough.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah.

[Laura Kammermeir] But we’re somewhere– we’re releasing four to six different revisions every week. So we’ve got this team in place.

[Chelsea Benson] Wow.

[Laura Kammermeir] There’s 2,000 authors all over the world, that have worked on this or are currently in active revisions. We also have a team of about 35 associate editors. Again, placed throughout the world. They’re either experts in their field, or what they’re doing is adding the work of a body of experts in their area. So we’re really trying to rely on local expertise, local knowledge to update these accounts.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s great. So we’re going to spend the next part of our time together, looking at three different species of birds and their really fabulous amazing migrations. And Benjamin’s going to walk us through what makes these species so special, while Laura shares resources from Birds of the World and maps from eBird. And then we’re going to take time to answer audience’ questions, because I can see lots of questions that are in the Q&A and coming in from Facebook.

So we’re really excited that you’re eager to ask questions. And we had only scheduled this webinar to be a half an hour, but Laura and Benjamin have both agreed, if we have lots of good questions, we can stay on for another 5 to 10 minutes to answer your questions. So, Benjamin could you start us off with a small species that breeds in North America, the Blackpoll Warbler? What’s really cool about this bird?

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yeah, this is a great species. I’m sure many of you tuning in from East and North America are familiar with this species. It’s one of my favorite Warblers. It’s a really again, a small bird. As you can see from the Birds of the World photos there, males have this striking black and white plumage in the spring. In the spring, the females move to that– I think the next photo, Laura have– they’re less striking.

And in the fall, the subtleties of plumage are– the plumage is a little bit more subtle. So if we advance to the next image, I think we have an autumn– well, that’s still June. But further along, there are so many photos. There we go, there is an autumn one. That’s what they look like this time of year. So there can be a bit of a challenge to identify. But what really always blows me away about Blackpoll Warblers, are their migrations.

Most of them undertake a non-stop over-water flight, over the open Atlantic straight to North and South America. From launching off points in the Northeast of the US, and the Canadian maritimes. And here from the animated eBird map, we can really see that nicely. Right now on the map, it’s wintertime. They’re in northern South America. They move North in the spring, into the boreal forest of Canada.

And then in the fall, they kind of drop off the Eastern seaboard, disappearing off of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey. And then reappearing in northern South America after that over-water flight. We’ll watch that again. Summer now, and they’re about to drop off the coast and reappear in South America in the fall. So that, I always think is amazing. They can fly for three days nonstop over the open Atlantic, and fall to make it to South America. And this map just shows some great detail of that.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s amazing, for such a small bird to be able to make such an incredible journey. Especially changing their route, and going over open water for that long, it just kind of blows your mind.

[Benjamin Van Doren] It’s really impressive. If any of you have ever held a Blackpoll Warbler, say at a bird banding station in the fall, they’re often very full of fat that they have accumulated to power that migration. Other similar species often don’t carry as much fat, so they feel sometimes a little bit squishy in the hand.

[Chelsea Benson] So then you’ll only know if you’re banding, and get to have that special moment bird in hand. That’s so cool. Let’s take a look at another migrant. This one is a really super long distance migrant, the Hudsonian Godwit.

[Benjamin Van Doren] The Godwits, like this one, they’re large shorebirds. A lot larger than the birds we’ve seen so far. They’re really incredible migrants, so here’s a picture from the non-breeding period in October. If we could see the next photo, it’s of the breeding plumage of this bird, which again is– I think is really beautiful.

This great chestnut plumage. And if we look at the static range map on the Birds of the World account, we can see that it, unlike the Blackpoll Warbler, has some very important– there are very important locations for this species, that are spread out across the hemisphere.

So starting with the blues in Southern South America, where they spend the winter, all the way at the southern tip there, they can make flights that are nonstop, of potentially 10,000 kilometers. They’ve been tracked doing this North to areas in the United States, like that yellow finger in the Great Plains is an important stopover point for them, before they finish their journey and launch to the Arctic.

The kind of disparate orange colors show that, some of their breeding colonies, breeding locations in the Arctic. So they travel very long distances. They rely on these important stopover sites, and breeding and wintering sites. They can be fairly small, relative to say, the Blackpoll Warbler that’s spread across the boreal forest.

So they require some special habitats. And then when they finish breeding, sometimes they jump off from the James Bay, the Hudson Bay Area, where you can see Laura’s cursor and fly all the way to northern South America. There is a yellow line in the northern edge of South America there, showing a frequently used stopover site. So that’s another 5,000 to 6,000 kilometers nonstop. Often just a really impressive migratory bird. I love Hudsonian Godwits too.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah, something that really strikes me and that you mentioned, is the really importance of habitat for this bird. And these maps really played– demonstrate that very well, and the importance of having those protected areas for the species. And there is a lot of other species, not just this one, where habitat plays such a critical role during their migration.

Do you have an example that– we don’t have to pull it up, but what’s another bird, Benjamin that maybe is a European species, that might rely on critical habitat in this way? Because I saw we had a lot of people from our international audience, so I want to give them an example too.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Sure, so shorebirds like this Godwit are– they have often very specific habitat requirements or immigration. Often for example, really important mudflats that they rely on year after year to power them, to help them refuel quickly and power them on their journey.

And so one species that is present both in Western hemisphere and the Eastern hemisphere, well known in Europe as well as North America, is the Red Knot. And that’s another schwarber species, that rely is also on these really important, really critical stopover habitat locations. And they have– it was a tossup maybe, whether to highlight them here or not, but they have really amazing migrations as well.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah, and the map that Laura just pulled up really demonstrates that as well. Yeah, you can see them around Australia and New Zealand. And then way up North there, that’s really cool. So many birds that we’ve been talking about, Benjamin really, they migrate at night. But the one species that we want to talk about next, is a daytime migrant and it can be seen migrating in the thousands. So let’s talk about the Broad-winged Hawk.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yes, the Broad-winged Hawk. This is probably– at least in where we are, in the Northeast US, really the peak time to see migrating Broad-winged Hawks. They’re heading South now. Soon, they’ll be in Texas, Mexico, passing through Central America.

They’re a woodland hawk, they’re widespread in the Eastern woodlands in the summer. And right about now, you can see these corrugations. I believe we have a video to show of them, from Birds of the World, to illustrate this. So the video will zoom in. So if you can’t see it crystal clear right now, you will in just a minute. The hawks


[Chelsea Benson] Right, it looks like bugs right now. There they are.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yeah, there. They’re the hawks. They form these swirling clouds, vortices, often they’re called kettles, colloquially, of birds that use thermal uplift caused by uneven heating of the Earth’s surface.

So warmer air rises, and these birds don’t really have to flap very much. They just soar on these rising columns of air. And when they get to the top of a thermal, they glide off down to find another one. But as a result, since they rely on these thermals over land, they try usually very hard to stay over land.

And so if we look at the animated eBird map, which I believe we have cued up, we can see there. Yeah, there we go. So they’re migrating over land, which makes this map really quite amazing to see, because their entire migration is captured by the map over land.

Instead of say, the Blackpoll Warbler that had some of it hidden from us, when it was over the ocean. They move North through Central America, spread out through North America in the summer. And now, they’re heading South. Potentially making a beeline for the Texas Gulf Coast, so they can curve around into Central America. They’re really quite spectacular migrants.

[Laura Kammermeir] And there’s hawk websites all around the world. And there’s one pretty close to me on Lake Ontario, which is right here. And I know 1 April, not too long ago, 40,000 were counted in one day.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Wow.

[Laura Kammermeir] So it really gets into the tens of thousands. They’re really fascinating, and I’m sure there’s sites that have even more than that.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yes, if you’re lucky enough to be say, in Corpus Christi, Texas or even Veracruz in Mexico, you can see easily tens or hundreds of thousands of these in a day, at the right time.

[Chelsea Benson] Wonderful, this is great. Laura, I see our next question, we are going to talk about hummingbirds a little bit, because a lot of people in the Q&A in the chat, really want to hear about hummingbirds. So right now, we’ve just barely scratched the surface of Birds of the World and what it can tell us about birds. So Laura, could you share a little bit more about some interesting features that are present in Birds of the World?

[Laura Kammermeir] Absolutely. Well, it’s just funny that you mentioned hummingbirds, because how does Birds of the World become important? And how can it help you understand what’s going on with migration? I just wanted to give you one example that worked for me just last week. I had a really active hummingbird feeder all summer. And I’ve got the feeder just six feet from me, so I felt a little buzzes all day. You know how lovely that is.

And so September 9, was the last time I saw one at my feeder and I wondered well, how soon are they leaving? So I went to Birds of the World, and Ruby-throated– and I just want to show you how I used it. Between Birds of the World and eBird data, there’s incredible information to find. And so I went to the movements and migration, and I started reading this. And I found out– and watching the week by week animated map.

And I found out that September 21, is about the last time you’re going to see this humming– the hummingbirds in our region, which I’m in Western New York. So that’s one way you can use it. You get some dates here, you can verify through the animated maps and through also eBird tools as well. So there’s just so much information you can glean that’s really again, authoritative. It’s from primary resources.

The other thing I wanted to show you though, is this Explore Taxonomy feature. So when you click on explore taxonomy, what you do, is you get every single bird, right? I can scroll, and scroll and scroll for all 10,000 species. Which it becomes useful under this condition, it’s amazing to view all of these species. These are Tinamous, right? And what you can do, is you can at just one glance, review all of the diversity within this family. OK, so that’s neat.

But also, if you’re going on a trip, say somewhere to Australia, which you can do, is click on– is enter Australia. And then what I would have is– I would see only the birds of Australia. So then I would be able to then click off here, to learn more about that species. And this feature is available– well, the viewing feature is available to everybody for free. So you can come here, and use that and just get that overview. But it’s only when you click on a species, to get the species account in details, that’s when the subscription comes into play.

So there is that. I also want to show you one more, the Short-eared Owl. Beautiful, amazing owl with such a dynamic face and deep looking eyes. And it’s found both East and West, all over New World, Old World. And luckily, I actually have them right out the door in winter, so it’s really amazing.

I’m an eBirder, so I keep track of all the birds I see. And because I do that, and the way this eBird is integrated with Birds of the World, it allows me, if I– these eBird badges over here, show me that I’ve seen the Short-eared Owl, but also, that I’ve photographed it.

So what I can do is, I can click on this photo and I can see what my trail cam photos that I took last winter. So that was really neat. But I think the advantage is that, oh, as you’re looking through some of the– if you do a lot of birding around the world, you sort of lose track of what you see. So it’s kind of neat to be able to use these, to also track your world list online so.

[Chelsea Benson] So cool.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah.

[Chelsea Benson] And I know that for our audience, you do have a coupon for migration celebration.

[Laura Kammermeir] Absolutely, I do and I’m going to make it easy by putting that up. OK, so what we’re offering today to the listeners of your webinar, is 50% introductory discount. So if you want to try an annual plan for 50% off, you will get that. So if a plan is $49, you’re going to be paying somewhere around $25, in US dollars.

Anyone could get it around the world. MIGRATIONSENSATION21 is the coupon code that you would enter into the store. And again, that’s going to be your first year, you’re going to get that 50% off. And that is for new subscribers only. This is for an introduction to the resource.

So all you need to do is go to the website, which is, And if you forget, you can go to the Cornell Lab website and go to their footer, the footer of the Cornell Lab website and you’ll see it. But then click subscribe, the subscribe button will be in the upper right. And then you could just choose this, the annual plan for this coupon, OK.

[Chelsea Benson] Great. Thank you so much for sharing that.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, absolutely.

[Chelsea Benson] We’re going to turn our next 10 minutes to all your migration questions. So thank you for sharing that resource with us, Laura.

[Laura Kammermeir] Absolutely.

[Chelsea Benson] Benjamin, I saw a lot of questions come through about BirdCast. And because we do have an audience that is international and have a pretty large group from Canada, could you tell us why the map is only of the United States?

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yes so these BirdCast forecasts are powered by our national array of weather radars, which the US Weather Service operates. And fortunately, provides data for free. And so we use that to track migration.

Unfortunately, we don’t at the moment have the same access to weather radars in Canada, which unfortunately constrains our ability to make the same kinds of forecasts into Canada. But it is something we’re working on, and really hoping to work towards in the near future. So I hope that Migration Celebration 2022, we’ll have some Canada maps, but unfortunately we don’t yet.

[Chelsea Benson] That’s great. Another BirdCast question that comes up, people were wondering is this only like a nighttime forecast? What about some of those daytime migrants that come through?

[Benjamin Van Doren] That’s an excellent question. Yes, so BirdCast, we can look at– I think Laura’s showing the local migration alert. So if you type in say, Rochester, New York or Minnesota, wherever you happen to be, you can see our– wow, it looks like that’s a good place to be right now.

[Chelsea Benson] Wow, it’s–

[Benjamin Van Doren] In Minnesota, so yeah, you could see local migration alerts, but they are for nocturnal migration as you said Chelsea. That’s really the easiest thing for us to detect with the weather radar, since nocturnal migration is just so widespread over the landscape.

By contrast, these diurnal migrants like the Broad-winged hawks that we saw, they tend to form aggregations that are not quite as spread out across the landscape. These big flocks or streams moving through, and so we don’t yet have the software and the methods to quantify that in just the same way.

So what you can do though, generally speaking, if a night is good for migration, that means there is favorable weather conditions over that region, which generally persists for a little bit of time. So it’s probable that the following day will also be a good day for seeing diurnal migrants. But right now, the predictions are focused on night for those reasons.

[Chelsea Benson] Another interesting question that maybe tests the limit of BirdCast here, is what about variance and irruptions? So maybe explain what those things are first before you– what is a variant? What’s an irruption, and how do we learn about that?

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yeah, I’m wondering if maybe the question asker meant to type vagrant.

[Chelsea Benson] Ooh.

[Benjamin Van Doren] But I can answer–

[Chelsea Benson] Yes, you’re right, vagrant.

[Benjamin Van Doren] OK, great.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah, I just can’t read.

[Benjamin Van Doren] That’s all right. That’s all right, so irruptive migrants– I’ll start with that– are species, often finches are one of these groups that have a lot of irruptive migrants. So if you– maybe we could look at Pine Siskin for example, Laura, if we’re able to from–

[Laura Kammermeir] OK, from Birds of the World?

[Benjamin Van Doren] From Birds of the World.

[Laura Kammermeir] OK.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Yeah, so this is one example of a species that heads South from Northern forests. More or less each year, depending on the food resources essentially. So some years, there’ll be lots of them migrating and some years they’ll be fewer of them migrating. And that is what the word irruption or irruptive refers to, is that irregularity of how the migration may change from year to year, depending on those resources.

BirdCast itself is tracking birds and active migratory flight. So the radars will– so there are some Pine Siskins that do migrate at night. They often migrate during the day. If they’re migrating at night, the radars will pick them up, so they will be quantified in that sense. But at the moment, we don’t have a tool that really focuses on irruptive migrants.

We do– vagrants are birds that are out of the normal range rarities, that might end up on the other side of the country or the world even. On our BirdCast website, we do spend a bit of time talking about vagrants. Like when Hurricane– for example, recent tropical storms, hurricanes.

If you scroll down, Laura actually I think you can still see one of our– yeah, that last article about Hurricane Ida, that talked about some birds that were displaced by the hurricane, out of range vagrants. So we post some discussion about when conditions conducive to vagrants may be occurring. But at the moment, we don’t have any automated maps for vagrants, like we do for the larger forecasts.

[Chelsea Benson] Right, and it’s so cool that you can go and read those articles. And the BirdCast team does a really good job at– if there’s storms or other weather patterns that might affect birds, you can go here and learn about them and their migration. This is a great question that came through. And it really does hit on climate change, Benjamin which you’re studying. Are there certain species that are impacted more by climate change than others?

[Benjamin Van Doren] Absolutely, there are so many ways to answer this question.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah.

[Benjamin Van Doren] One thing that I– let’s see. I mean, one thing we can all– or many birders are experiencing certainly, are the changing timing of migration. That birds are migrating a little bit earlier in the spring for example. I think a lot of people have experienced that over the years, and there are certain species that are more or less responsive to those kinds of changing weather patterns.

So for example, a bird like the Eastern Phoebe in Eastern North America, that migrates early in the spring and/or the Tree Swallow, that they’re very attuned to the local weather conditions. And so if it’s a warm spring, they’ll definitely be seen migrating earlier.

There are other species though that are for example, longer distance migrants. And their migration timing is thought to be more programmed into their genes, and they don’t have as much flexibility in the same sense as those shorter distance migrants, that may only be going say, from Florida to New York, as opposed to from Argentina to Maine. And if you’re in Argentina, it’s hard to know what’s going on in Maine.

So you really don’t have an ability to adapt, to rapidly changing temperatures in the same way for example. So those long distance migrants are a little bit concerning for people studying climate change responses, because it’s unclear if they’ll be able to respond in the same way as these shorter distance migrants do.

[Chelsea Benson] Another question that came up, and this is about birds migrating and airplanes. So we know that there are some birds that might migrate close to an airplane, the elevation an airplane– altitude an airplane is flying at. But how do planes and migrating birds interact, like what’s going on there? Because we do hear about it in the news.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Sure. Yes, so planes– unfortunately, there are regular collisions between birds and planes. There are various steps that aviators and airports take to try and decrease the risk of those collisions. Ranging from trying to keep birds away from active runways, to in a sense of, some work I’m involved in migration forecasting, to determine when are particularly high risk days or nights for interactions between birds and planes?

And so pilots may be able to therefore exercise additional caution, or there might be more constraints put on say the military, whether there are lots of low flying exercises and practice military exercises for example, close to the ground. So the Netherlands is a country that has a well working, well integrated system of bird migration radar integrated monitoring with their aviation.

And we’ve– my team, led by a former postdoc at the Lab of Ornithology, Cecilia Nilsson, recently published some research right on this topic, linking weather radar, eBird and the risk of collisions with planes. So we’re working on these kinds of problems. And hopefully, we’ll be able to further decrease that risk, but it is something to think about, certainly as an aviator. This risk of collisions with birds.

[Chelsea Benson] OK, I have one more question, because our audience is so international in scope. One of the questions that came through is the abundance maps that we’ve been showing. That they seemed really focused on the Americas. However, they are international in scope, and I just wanted, Laura, if you could pull up the eBird resource for our audience.

If you go to eBird status and trends, right there and then you can search by explore, all status and trends species. And then you can see the birds where we have these animated maps. And they are international, but they’re not as complete of course as we’d like them to be. Ben, can you talk about how these maps are created?

[Benjamin Van Doren] Sure, so the eBird status and trends team, takes submissions from the eBird database and runs a number of complicated model– computer modeling steps to arrive at these maps. And as the amount of data coming into eBird gets bigger and bigger across the world, they’re able to expand these analysis to more areas.

So I know this past year was a huge expansion of the international, or outside of the US at least species included. So those are increasingly being featured here, and I expect that will only increase next year and the years beyond, as more data are coming in.

[Laura Kammermeir] Right, and so also, so everything proceed at the pace of technology, right? So there’s so much we want to do, so much we need to do. So Birds of the World, the eBird team, science team is focusing on the development of those maps.

And then as our species accounts are updated, that gives the opportunity for the editor of that account to then bring in the map, or the appropriate map to tell the story about that species. So we’re getting more and more species outside of North America. I think– I know about two years ago, we had about– or about a year and a half ago, we had about 600 species.

Mostly in North America, but now we have a large number that’s just– so we’re expanding. So again, it proceeds at the pace of technology. And we’re with you, we are trying to be– we think globally now. We started as just a New York organization, but now we’re international. And so it’s is important to us, as it is to the people who need this information.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Laura, it’s also probably worth mentioning that, even though some species don’t yet have the animated eBird maps, the Birds of the World accounts, they all have static range maps, right?

[Laura Kammermeir] Absolutely, so they have static range maps and these come from a few different sources. It’s a really good point. So there’s– we have the history of Birds of the World, was that we– it’s a merger of four different publications. There used to be a HBW live material, that merged with the really deep, long formed BNA accounts, Birds of North America accounts and the Neotropical Birds accounts that we had. And then also, the Bird Families of the World.

So what we’ve done, is we’ve merged all this stuff together. And therefore, some of the maps that are existing in our short-form HBW live accounts, are actually from BirdLife International. We have others that are from Robert Ridgely, and who’s a neotropical bird specialist, as well as eBird. So it’s our goal to choose the best map, that tells a story about that species. And so we’re partnering with other organizations around the world, to make it all come together.

[Chelsea Benson] So we just talked a lot about BirdCast. And as I said, we are doing a separate webinar on that topic on Friday at noon. And then also on Wednesday, this Wednesday at noon, we also are doing another webinar on this eBird status and trends.

So if you’re really interested in how these maps were created and how to really get the most out of this resource, you can join that webinar as well. All right, we have gone way over, and I want to thank you both for– its just so many great questions. And it’s just so much to get into. So thank you, Laura and thank you, Benjamin for taking the time to be with us today.

[Laura Kammermeir] Thank you. This was really fun, and reach out to us if you have any questions. And don’t forget the coupon, if you want to subscribe. It’s MIGRATIONSENSATION21, all caps.

[Benjamin Van Doren] Likewise, this was great. Thanks, Chelsea and Laura, and everyone for attending.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah, thank you.

[Chelsea Benson] All right, so thanks to our audience for joining us today. This week is the conclusion of Migration Celebration. We are going to be adding resources, and links on our Migration Celebration website. We’ll be emailing some information out next week, after the celebration is over.

But if you go to our Migration Celebration website, you can watch the recorded talks there and you can learn what’s coming up. And you can learn– there’s articles on there about BirdCast, and other resources that will help you make the most of this migration season. Oh, yeah. Thanks, Laura for pulling that up. Ooh, it’s in there somewhere.

[Laura Kammermeir] In there somewhere, sorry.


[Chelsea Benson] No, it’s– what is the site?


[Laura Kammermeir] There we go.

[Chelsea Benson] Yeah, there we go. Cornell Migration Celebration, all right. Cool, so thanks again to our audience for tuning in. I hope if you enjoyed the program, you’ll consider becoming a member of the Cornell Lab. And you can visit, to do that. And then Laura’s brought the website up.

So Laura, if you just want to take a quick scan down a page, we can see that the webinars are up here. And if it already happened, if you click that button, it goes right to the recording. So you can kind of get a sneak peek at all these cool events that have been happening throughout the last week, well, two weeks. It’s been busy.

[Laura Kammermeir] Yeah.

[Chelsea Benson] All right, that’s all for today. Thanks again, you guys. Thanks to our audience, and have a good day everybody.

[Laura Kammermeir] All right, thanks a lot. Take care.

[Chelsea Benson] Bye.

End of transcript

Discover which birds have the longest, highest, fastest, and farthest flights, among other fascinating migration facts during this webinar. We’ll take a tour of the Earth’s most remarkable migratory birds and demonstrate how to use Birds of the World, an online database including over 10,700 species accounts. See stunning photos and learn something new!

This event is part of our virtual Migration Celebration. Visit the Migration Celebration webpage for the full schedule of events, migration resources, and family-friendly activities.

Learn more about Birds of the World and Migration