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Potential use of weather radar to study movements of wintering waterfowl

November 2, 2011

To protect and restore wintering waterfowl habitat, managers require knowledge of routine wintering waterfowl movements and habitat use. During preliminary screening of Doppler weather radar data we observed biological movements consistent with routine foraging flights of wintering waterfowl known to occur near Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Louisiana. During the winters of 2004–2005 and 2005–2006, we conducted field surveys to identify the source of the radar echoes emanating from Lacassine NWR. We compared field data to weather radar reflectivity data. Spatial and temporal patterns consistent with foraging flight movements appeared in weather radar data on all dates of field surveys. Dabbling ducks were the dominant taxa flying within the radar beam during the foraging flight period. Using linear regression, we found a positive log-linear relationship between average radar reflectivity (Z) and number of birds detected over the study area (P < 0.001, r2 = 0.62, n = 40). Ground observations and the statistically significant relationship between radar data and field data confirm that Doppler weather radar recorded the foraging flights of dabbling ducks. Weather radars may be effective tools for wintering waterfowl management because they provide broad-scale views of both diurnal and nocturnal movements. In addition, an extensive data archive enables the study of wintering waterfowl response to habitat loss, agricultural practices, wetland restoration, and other research questions that require multiple years of data.

Publication Year 2011
Title Potential use of weather radar to study movements of wintering waterfowl
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.173
Authors Lori A. Randall, Robert H. Diehl, Barry C. Wilson, Wylie C. Barrow, Clinton W. Jeske
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70004975
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center; Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center