Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of




Date of this Version



Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 2019;5 (2):193–204


© 2018 The Authors.

Open access

doi: 10.1002/rse2.99


Radar observations present a way to monitor large, mobile populations across long temporal scales, and are especially valuable when individual scatterers are challenging to count visually. The focus of this study is a large and relatively homogeneous wintertime roost of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) in central Oklahoma. Radar observations are used to estimate the roost population through winter 2010–2011, and the population time series is related to weather variables and radar beam propagation. Radar-estimated roost population gradually increased to an estimated peak of 1.5–2 million individuals from November 2010 to January 2011, and then decreased in a more stepwise manner through the spring until roost dispersal in early March. Weather conditions did not definitively explain these population decreases leading toward roost dispersal. Birds from the roost were often observed to travel >50 km away during the daytime. About 25–30% of the variability in the radar-derived roost population estimate could be explained by atmospheric variables. This work provides an example of how radar methods may be used to estimate populations and monitor their temporal trends, which may be valuable to conservation efforts by facilitating estimates of population change through time.