A Good Day For Birding? Check These Maps

Migrating birds detected on radar, Tues 28 April 2020, 4am (screenshot from BirdCast)

28 April 2020

Will today be a good day to go birding? Will there be new migrating birds in our area? You don’t have to guess the answer. Just check these maps.

Above, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdCast uses national radar data to show where, when and in what direction the birds are moving in real time. The screenshot, above, from 4:00am this morning shows intense movement (bright yellow-white) in the Central Great Plains and Mississippi Valley. Birds were also migrating over Pittsburgh but not Philadelphia.

Click on the BirdCast link and play the video to see sunset (red bar) sweep across the continent and the birds start to move. Hotspots soon develop on the map, especially in the pre-dawn hours. That’s where you want to be. When sunrise (yellow bar) sweeps across, migration stops for the day.

If you can’t get outdoors today, see the 2-3 day prediction at CSU’s Aeroeco Lab’s Lights Out Alerts. The website combines historical migration counts with the weather forecast to predict three days of bird migration and alert cities to turn off their lights to save the birds.

According to Lights Out Alerts, last night (April 27-28 “Tonight”) almost 350 million birds flew over the U.S. on their way north. Tomorrow morning (April 28-29) we’ll see the same. Then the weather will suppress movement on the night of April 29-30. NOTE: The labels are a little off. “Tonight” always means “Last Night” if you view the website during the day.

Screenshot from CSU Aeroeco Lab’s Lights Out Alerts, 28 April 2020, 4:30am

Kyle Horton and his colleagues used historical migration patterns and the current weather forecast to produce the maps. Here’s his long view: A map of peak migration, week by week, across the U.S.

Based on these maps I’d say that birding will be good today in Pittsburgh … when the rain stops.

UPDATE September 2020: In late August BirdCast added migration forecast tools to their website. Click here for Forecast Maps, Live migration maps and Local Alerts.

(screenshots from BirdCast Live Migration Maps and CSU’s Lights Out Alerts; click on the captions to see the latest maps)

3 thoughts on “A Good Day For Birding? Check These Maps

  1. And I did just this morning see a female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak at the feeder! Still waiting for my first hummer sighting, though. They are late. But the Eastern Towhee arrived very early, weeks ago. Here in Weirton, WV, on the Ohio River.

    Thanks Ms. Kate.

  2. Yup, terrible day for birding here in Wisconsin too, raining non stop. But it’s a good day for commenting on my favorite bird blogs and thanking the authors for their efforts, so thank you Kate, I’ve learned a lot from you, and roll on spring migration.

  3. Past two days had a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks at feeder. So excited as I rarely see them here in SW PA. This was a bird I saw regularly when I lived in sw MI. Also, put out hummingbird feeder this afternoon. Just saw female ruby-throated hummingbird at 6pm!

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