Cross-calibration of different radar systems for monitoring nocturnal bird migration across Europe and the Near East

Felix Liechti, Janine Aschwanden, Jan Blew, Mathieu Boos, Robin Brabant, Adriaan M. Dokter, Vladislav Kosarev, Maryna Lukach, Mercedes Maruri, Maarten Reyniers, Inbal Schekler, Heiko Schmaljohann, Baptiste Schmid, Nadja Weisshaupt, Nir Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large parts of the continents are continuously scanned by terrestrial weather radars to monitor precipitation and wind conditions. These systems also monitor the mass movements of bird, bat, and insect migration, but it is still unknown how many of these systems perform with regard to detection and quantification of migration intensities of the different groups. In this study that was undertaken within five regions across Europe and the Middle East we examined to what extent bird migration intensities derived from different weather radars are comparable between each other and relate to intensities measured by local small-scaled radars, some of them specifically developed to monitor birds. Good correspondence was found for the relative day-to-day pattern in migration intensities among most radar systems that were compared. Absolute intensities varied between different systems and regions. The findings of this study can be used to infer about absolute bird migration intensities measured by different radar systems and consequently help resolving methodological issues regarding the estimation of migrant numbers in the Western-Palearctic region. It further depicts a scientific basis for the future monitoring of migratory bird populations across a large spatio-temporal scale, predicting their movements and studying its consequences on ecological systems and human lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-898
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements – We thank, Klaus Stephan (‘Deutscher Wetterdienst’ DWD), Cédric Legal (Météo France) and Günther Haase (BALTRAD, SMHI) for supporting the access to the WR data. We acknowledge the European Operational Program for Exchange of Weather Radar Information (EUMETNET/OPERA) for providing access to European radar data, faciliated through a research-only license agreement between EUMETNET/OPERA members and ENRAM. We thank Femern A/S for allowing us to publish data from the EIA (northern Germany). We thank Asaf Mayrose for facilitating radar data processing and analysis from northern Israel. We thank two reviewers for their helpful comments. Funding – The study was financially support by COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology – through the Action ES1305 ‘European Network for the Radar Surveillance of Animal Movement’ (ENRAM) for facilitating international collaboration. The Belgian case-study was part of the project RAVEN, which was funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy office (BELSPO) under the BRAIN-be programme.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors


  • bird migration
  • cross-validation
  • radar monitoring
  • radar ornithology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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