NOCTURNAL BIRD MIGRATION: Clues About the Environment

Many birds migrate at night, and when they do, they call to each other. Right now, we’re listening to the nocturnal migrating calls of the Swainson’s Thrush. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Scientists believe that by tracking these airborne calls with sensitive microphones, we could monitor the populations of different species of songbirds. That information could provide valuable clues about our environment.

“These birds are a barometer to various changes that we’re making, whether it’s pesticide or ozone. By monitoring their populations we can get an indication on how we’re changing the planet.”

Bill Evans is a research associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. He’s spent the past dozen or so years learning to identify the nighttime calls of migrating birds.

“This may be an incredibly efficient way for monitoring songbird populations. Because instead of going having a censusor going out into the woods and look for a little bird here or there, you’re letting the birds come to you.

“I have seen that there’s incredible consistency in the bird migration from year to year. What I’ve seen from monitoring the same sites for up to five years now is that these populations at least seem very stable.”

“It makes sense to me just looking at habitat changes. The forest has come back in New York State. We now have a state that is over sixty percent forested compared with back in the early part of the century where we were more like twenty to thirty percent forested. So certainly forest species are doing better in New York State now than they were back at the turn of the century.”

Other scientists are confirming that songbird populations are indeed stabilizing, and that news is something to sing about – night or day. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

NOCTURNAL BIRD MIGRATION: Clues About the Environment

By tracking the nighttime calls of migrating birds, scientists can gain valuable clues about our environment.
Air Date:10/10/1997
Scientist:
Transcript:

Many birds migrate at night, and when they do, they call to each other. Right now, we're listening to the nocturnal migrating calls of the Swainson's Thrush. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Scientists believe that by tracking these airborne calls with sensitive microphones, we could monitor the populations of different species of songbirds. That information could provide valuable clues about our environment.

"These birds are a barometer to various changes that we're making, whether it's pesticide or ozone. By monitoring their populations we can get an indication on how we're changing the planet."

Bill Evans is a research associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. He's spent the past dozen or so years learning to identify the nighttime calls of migrating birds.

"This may be an incredibly efficient way for monitoring songbird populations. Because instead of going having a censusor going out into the woods and look for a little bird here or there, you're letting the birds come to you.

"I have seen that there's incredible consistency in the bird migration from year to year. What I've seen from monitoring the same sites for up to five years now is that these populations at least seem very stable."

"It makes sense to me just looking at habitat changes. The forest has come back in New York State. We now have a state that is over sixty percent forested compared with back in the early part of the century where we were more like twenty to thirty percent forested. So certainly forest species are doing better in New York State now than they were back at the turn of the century."

Other scientists are confirming that songbird populations are indeed stabilizing, and that news is something to sing about - night or day. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.