URI researcher tracks nocturnal bird migration using microphones

Finds offshore wind turbines not likely to affect migrating songbirds

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Adam SmithKINGSTON, R.I. – April 3, 2014 – A postdoctoral researcher at the University of Rhode Island tracked the fall migration of songbirds through Rhode Island by listening to their nocturnal flight calls using eight microphones set up around the state. His results confirm what studies using radar have found — that weather conditions significantly influence migratory behavior – but because he could detect individual species, he believes this method will help researchers identify changes in the timing of migration as the climate changes.

His results were published in the online research journal PLOS ONE in March.

Adam Smith said that using acoustics is a simpler and more affordable method than radar to monitor songbird migration. His microphones detected more than 42,000 individual flight calls from at least 22 species of warblers and sparrows in September and October of 2010 and 2011 at five sites on Block Island and three coastal wildlife refuges.

“The aim was to characterize the atmospheric conditions that lead to higher coastal migratory activity,” Smith said. “What we know about this activity is based largely on radar studies, and I wanted to know if we could get the same kind of information from acoustic data.”

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