US Geological Survey


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J.J. Buler et al. 347-379


Despite using the aerosphere for many facets of their life, most flying animals (i.e., birds, bats, some insects) are still bound to terrestrial habitats for resting, feeding, and reproduction. Comprehensive broad-scale observations by weather surveillance radars of animals as they leave terrestrial habitats for migration or feeding flights can be used to map their terrestrial distributions either as point locations (e.g., communal roosts) or as continuous surface layers (e.g., animal densities in habitats across a landscape). We discuss some of the technical challenges to reducing measurement biases related to how radars sample the aerosphere and the flight behavior of animals. We highlight a recently developed methodological approach that precisely and quantitatively links the horizontal spatial structure of birds aloft to their terrestrial distributions and provides novel insights into avian ecology and conservation across broad landscapes. Specifically, we present case studies that (1) elucidate how migrating birds contend with crossing ecological barriers and extreme weather events, (2) identify important stopover areas and habitat use patterns of birds along their migration routes, and (3) assess waterfowl response to wetland habitat management and restoration. These studies aid our understanding of how anthropogenic modification of the terrestrial landscape (e.g., urbanization, habitat management), natural geographic features, and weather (e.g., hurricanes) can affect the terrestrial distributions of flying animals.