The night of April 20, 2023, while most of us slept, 603,700 birds flew right over the top of us here in Sussex County, heading north-northeast at an average speed of about thirty-three mph, flying at about 1,900 feet of altitude. The night before, 858,800 traveled through, and the night before that, there were only 4,400. The migrants were a mixture of species—Dark-eyed juncos, Hermit thrushes, Prothonotory warblers, to name a few.
Am I some sort of superhero birder that I can see in the dark, count thousands of small flying beings high above me, and identify them? Very much the opposite—unless a bird lands right in front of me and stays still long enough for me to enter the size, color, habits, etc., into my Merlin app, I’m hopeless.
In 1999, a group of researchers and scientists started BirdCast. They wanted to build a bird migration prediction and reporting tool in the hopes that an informed public would change behaviors if they knew what was going on above them. While their early work was valuable, it’s been because of the last decade’s technological advances that their efforts took a major leap forward. They combined artificial intelligence, decades of study, mountains of data, high-tech weather radar, sensitive audio equipment able to record flight calls, and human observations through the eBird app to create easily accessible live maps, forecasts, and reports that any Joe-schmo (me!) can access to make themselves sound like a birding phenom.
Check out the live migration map here.
Learn what happened while you were sleeping last night here.
And check out the migration forecast here.
So now that we know what’s up there and when they’re coming through, we can alter our behaviors to help these tiny travelers make their final destinations:
- If you apply pesticide, wait until after peak migration so that birds have plenty of insects to eat at stopovers or upon arrival.
- If you live in a sensitive area, turn off outside lights and cover your windows at night (light pollution can cause birds to change migratory patterns).
- If you’re owned by a kitty-cat that prowls outdoors, keep them inside when migrants are coming through (and consider keeping them inside all the time, as one study found that outdoor cats kill about 2.4 billion birds annually).
- Finally, consider hanging a bird feeder in your backyard to provide needed calories to help mitigate habitat loss and the declining insect populations.