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Facts and Accomplishments of the Avian Radar Project

What we have accomplished

The Avian Radar Project is unique in that it is examining an extremely large area (the Great Lakes) and seeks to both answer specific questions as well as expand our knowledge about how to use these complex pieces of equipment. The size and intensity of this project are illustrated in some of these fast facts, but the sheer size of this project makes it hard to distill our accomplishments into raw numbers. Our real impact is in our ability to provide knowledge and information to USFWS Field Offices or state regulatory agencies to help them make effective decisions. Some of these documents, reports, and presentations are available below.


Fall 2011 Avian Radar Report     Spring 2013 Avian Radar Report     Spring 2012 Avian Radar Report

Executive Summary Only             Executive Summary Only                 Executive Summary Only

Huron and Ocean Counties, MI    Lake Ontario -Spring                      Lake Erie

Fall 2011 Report Cover         Fall 2011 Report Cover                 Fall 2011 Report Cover


Fall 2014 Avian Radar Report     Fall 2012 Avian Radar Report       Draft Fall 2017 Report

Executive Summary Only            Executive Summary Only

Lake Superior                              Green Bay and Saginaw Bay        Cleveland

Fall 2014 Report Cover         Cover of Fall 2012 Report                Cover of Fall 2012 Report

Fall 2016 Avian Radar Report   Fall 2015/Spring 2016                       Spring 2018 (6 mb)

Lower Resolution                       Lower Resolution (6mb)                  


Lake Ontario - Fall                     Lake Huron                                        Lake Superior

Fall 2016 Report Cover             Fall 2014 Report Cover                 Spring 2018 Report Cover




Spring 2017 Avian Radar Report   Fall 2018 Avian Radar Report                   

Lake Michigan                               Lake Erie                               

Spring 2017 Report Cover             Fall 2018 Report Cover                 


Journal Articles

We are always seeking to contribute to the knowledge of migration as a whole through works published in the scientific literature. Below are links to articles that we have published in academic journals.


Radar quantifies migration concentration and Dawn reorientation at a Great Lakes Shoreline - Heist et. al. 2018




Access Full Radar Data Set

We are providing access to data from our radar units. Included in this .zip file are spreadsheets with the results from summary queries for each of the radar sites that we have studied. The data have been summarized from the radar units we used, cleaned of false tracks due to rain or other clutter, and trimmed to the standard front for the VSR analysis. To explain each query, radar location, and definitions used in the data, we have included a Metadata file as well. Any updates to this dataset will be noted within this metadata file. If you have any questions about the contents of the data or any issues downloading it, please contact Elizabeth Rigby (Elizabeth_Rigby@fws.gov)


Download Avian Radar Data Zip File (38 mb) v1.3




Fast Facts

  • 43 radar sites surveyed
  • 16.66 square miles per site on normal settings (22 sites), 150 square miles per site on extended range settings (21 sites)
  • 716 square miles (1,854 square kilometers) of area surveyed in the Great Lakes Basin using normal radar settings
  • 3,516 square miles (9,106 square kilometers) of area surveyed including the extended range horizontal radar. This area is larger than the entire states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined!
  • 2,482 total radar unit operation days
  • Over 375 million total targets tracked
  • Surveyed a large portion of the total Great Lakes shorelines
  • Can project our data to support protections for almost 10 million acres of shoreline area

    Facts updated as of May 2019




    Avian Radar Team with Awards

    Midwest Regional Director's Science Excellence Award 2014 (Pictured above; Photo by USFWS)

    Nominated for the 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence for the Midwest Region (Group)


    Seasonal Reports

    Each season is unique because of various factors affecting migration such as large scale weather patterns affecting when migration starts and ends, the passage of fronts that affect timing of pulses, and other factors that control the emergence of insects that are food for many bats and birds or are food for their prey. Additionally, we moved the radar units and acoustic monitors to different locations each season with different research goals. The radar reports have been peer reviewed by other radar experts and can also be found in the Biological Technical Publication Series at the National Digital Library. Below are links to completed reports for the radar units and the acoustic monitors.


    Radar Units

    Fall 2011 Seasonal Report for Huron and Oceana Counties, MI

    Executive Summary only: (1mb)

    High resolution version: (60mb) Lower resolution version: (10mb)


    Spring 2013 Seasonal Report for Lake Ontario (25mb)

    Executive Summary only: (1mb)


    Spring 2012 Seasonal Report for Lake Erie (30mb)

    Executive Summary only: (1mb)


    Fall 2014 Seasonal Report for Lake Superior

    Executive Summary only: (1mb)

    High resolution version: (40mb) Lower resolution version (5mb)


    Fall 2012 Seasonal Report for Green Bay and Saginaw Bay

    Executive Summary only: (1mb)

    High resolution version: (60mb) Lower resolution version (6mb)


    Fall 2016 Seasonal Report for Lake Ontario

    High resolution version: (50mb) Lower resolution version (6mb)


    Combined Fall 2015/Spring 2016 Seasonal Report for Lake Huron

    High resolution version: (40mb) Lower resolution version (6mb)



    All seasonal reports housed at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center Library in print form and in their digital library.


    Acoustic Monitors

    2011 Acoustic Monitor Report

    2012 Acoustic Monitor Report


    Presentations, Posters, and Other Materials

    Our radar team has given presentations and posters at many different conferences and meetings. Below are a list of the posters and presentations given and a link to the file when available.





    Lake Erie Metroparks Hawk Fest Invited Speaker 2018

    2017 Ohio Avian Research Conference

    Lincoln Park Zoo Invited Speaker

    Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Invited Speaker

    2017 Indiana Dunes Bird Festival

    2017 University of Minnesota Conservation Sciences Seminar Series

    2016 Hawk Ridge Hawk Weekend Featured Speaker

    2015 Great Lakes Restoration Conference

    2014 Midwest Bird Conservation and Monitoring Workshop

    Great Lakes Pelagic Bird Stakeholder Engagement Workshop 2014

    ASPRS Midwest Region Annual Meeting Invited Talk

    Webinar for Region 3 USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management

    Monitoring Our Migratory Birds Workshop Invited Talk - Ashland, WI

    San Diego Zoo Invited Talk

    Review of Apple Blossom Wind Project Study

    Review of LEEDCo Wind Project Study

    Field Visits to Radar Units by USFWS NYFO and Iroquois NWR

    NWCC 2012 Presentation

    NYFO Presentation - 2011. 2012.

    WI DNR and Public Service Comission Presentation

    OH DNR Presentation

    Great Lakes Wind Collaborative 2011

    Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference 2011

    Great Lakes Bat Festival

    Region 5 Regional Office Presentation

    Region 3 Regional Office Presentation



    NWCC 2014 Bat Activity and Weather: Cut-in Thresholds

    NWCC 2014 Sample Volume and Density Correction

    NWCC 2012 Radar Project Summary

    NWCC 2012 Bat Calls and Weather

    USFWS Directorate Meeting


    Other Material:

    Summary of Radar Project - Short Version (1 page) - Long Version (4 pages)

    Acoustic Monitor Sign

    GLRI Success Stories Book 2012

    GLRI Success Stories Book 2013


    Funding Provided For:

    Avian and bat study on Eastern Lake Ontario Islands

    Digitization of historical bird observations into the Midwest Avian Data Center which is part of the Avian Knowledge Network

    Last updated: August 20, 2020