The Great Migration: Birds on Radar


Tonight’s radar shows the last few showers dying out as the evening goes on, but it also shows what I consider a remarkable sight.  The spring migration of birds north into Canada and the Arctic.  Check out the image at 8:45pm, then compare it with one hour later.  Do you see the sudden explosion of echos in the Willamette Valley?  Those are migrating birds.  How do we know?  For several reasons.

-This only appears in Spring and Fall

-Our wind between 1,000′ and 10,000′ is light westerly tonight, but THESE echoes are moving straight south to north at 25-35 kts!  Those guys/gals are in a hurry to get up north and get on with the family-making!

-A study presented to television meteorologists a few years ago at a conference pointed out that it only takes a few geese for an echo to show up.  It’s not like there is a “wall of birds” moving overhead, but there is plenty of avian action!  Remember the surface area of a goose or duck (along with smaller birds) is significantly greater than a hail stone.

-The birds prefer to fly at night since there is less turbulence in the atmosphere then.

Now maybe I read too many issues of Mother Earth News while on vacation, but I think mass migrations are fascinating.  Year after year these birds, much smaller than us, fly thousands of miles TWICE.  So while you sleep tonight, think about the thousands of birds working their way north over your head.

By the way, it’s not exactly a party movie, but my kids enjoyed Winged Migration, a movie about this semi-annual phenomenon.

As for weather…more rain coming the next 3 days!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

41 Responses to The Great Migration: Birds on Radar

  1. cherie in vernonia says:

    @3PM…snowing at Sunset Summit (via tripcheck)

  2. Muxpux says:

    Back to “local” weather, I’m working up in puyallup this week, and the skies just opened up. Wind started howling, and it’s been pouring the last 15 minutes or so. Temp at 42.5 right now. Were at about 250′ where I’m at. Wonder if were in for some flakes tonight.

    Also, anyone have a link to a decent Seattle area radar? The NWS one takes forever to load on my phone.

  3. It’s like a bad car accident…you don’t want to look but you can’t turn away.

  4. Sean Mott (Lebanon, IN) says:

    Just sitting watching the video footage.. Now under warning myself.. ugh..

    • W7ENK says:

      “Debris ball”

      That’s a new term for me… they’ve used it several times referring to their radar. 😯

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Hope no people are in the debris balls.

    • W7ENK says:

      Looks like Downtown Birmingham, AL is going to take a direct hit from a “mile-wide wedge” in the next few minutes… debris is already falling from the sky. ❗

    • W7ENK says:

      “…in the course of least regret…”

      Add that one to the personal vernacular.

      This is bad! 😦

    • Chuck on Mt Scott says:

      Wow, nasty storm. There are over 29k users watching that feed.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Wonder if the storm chasers are in more danger from large hail or debris balls.

    • W7ENK says:

      There’s something morbidly fascinating in watching a major US city get wiped (partially) off the face of the planet by a “mile-wide wedge” tornado. I’d be all cliché and say something like “I hope no one gets hurt or killed”, but there’ve already been 6 confirmed deaths… 😦

      Lord, help those people!

  5. Ben Monjay says:


  6. Mike (Orchards 255') says:

    Nice image from KGWX MS…

    • Mike (Orchards 255') says:

      Radar image from KGWX (Columbus AFB) MS when a tornado was on the ground earlier today in Clay Co. Mississippi….

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Pretty scary in Alabama today with a tornado emergency declared.

  7. Mike (Orchards 255') says:

    Another major outbreak of severe weather in the south part of the country….again…

    Warm southerly winds here…55°

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Amazing how temps are still 8-10 degrees below average on “warm” southerlies. 😉

  8. WEATHERDAN says:

    When the Vanport flood happened in 1948, under what circumstances did it happen. The reason I ask is because of the heavy snowpack we have which is still getting deeper. Sometime in the next few weeks the snowpack will begin to melt. With it being so deep and so late is it possible that we could have a similar situation this year?

    • bgb41 says:

      That flood happened before we dammed up the Columbia. A disaster like that will never happen again in our lifetimes.

    • Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

      I would be more worried about the smaller Rivers like the Clackamas and Sandy River.

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Yeah, not gonna happen on the Columbia.

      As far as smaller rivers, there will only be a problem assuming we get a big, rapid warm up. That is, of course, an assumption. If Pete Parson’s hydrological outlook is correct there shouldn’t be much of a problem, with cooler than average conditions lingering into the first half of Summer.

  9. Cherie in Vernonia says:

    snowflakes in the morning above 1,000′ Really??

  10. Jade says:

    That is way cool!

  11. chiefWright says:

    Huh? Why shouldn’t migrations be any less fascinating than weather? (But I’ll admit to reading back issues of Mother Earth News myself….)

  12. Andrew Johnson says:

    I chuckled when I read this post. I was ranting and raving to my wife for 30 minutes about animal migrations last night.

  13. bgb41 says:

    4/26/2011 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:66 at Echo( 680 ft)
    Low: 47 at Clatsop Spit(30 ft)

    High:26 at Mount Hood Meado(6601 ft)
    Low: 15 at ANEROID LAKE #2 (7300 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 29 degrees
    Barnhart (59/30 ) (891 ft )
    DW0460 Sisters (56/27) (3251 ft)
    Redmond, Roberts (52/23) (3077 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.02″ at MT. WILSON(3780ft)
    0.85″ at CW8562 Sandy(1360ft)
    0.85″ at DW0237 Lees Camp(699ft)

  14. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Thanks for the update, Mark.

    Here I thought they were killer bugs attacking us.

    Oh anyone interested in watching fantastic lightning LIVE on cam from Jackson, MS? Let me know and I’ll post some links.

  15. bgmike says:

    1? 2? 3?

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