Hypnotic maps reveal the abundance of more than 100 bird species across North America

Researchers have mapped out the range of more than 100 bird species in North America.

The collaboration between NASA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has made for unprecedented visualization of birds’ habits across the continent, using the more than 600 million observations from the online database, eBird.

The new maps provide important insight on the abundance, habitats, and trends of 107 bird species, and could prove beneficial for conservation efforts.

‘These models can learn what kind of habitat or land cover is associated with the blue jays, for example,’ said Daniel Fink, a senior research associate and statistician at Cornell.

‘We use land cover information to produce maps that predict where blue jays will occur across the landscape in places where people haven’t observed them directly.

‘When we look at these maps, the continuous coverage they provide is there because of the continuity of the NASA data products. It’s critical.’

The eBird database was formed 16 years ago, and has partnered up with NASA on multiple projects over the last few years.

With millions of observations from scientists and birdwatchers alike, the database allows for a glimpse into the life cycles of North American bird species.

The new maps use both eBird observations and NASA satellite data to track the paths of 107 species, including the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Mourning Doves.

‘We can now map for the first time through really good data visualizations the current status and future trends across the annual life cycle of more than 100 North American bird species on a weekly and seasonal basis,’ said Steve Kelling, the senior director of information science at Cornell who manages eBird.

‘We’ve dramatically improved the quality of the data people are submitting and have gone outside the United States to become a global project.

‘Since its inception, eBird has gathered 600 million observations from 453,000 observers in more than six million locations.’

The database plans to incorporate hundreds more species in the coming years, with potential to add up to 600 more within the next year alone.

The team also plans to expand its coverage to include South America, Europe, India, and Australia. 

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