, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 153–169 | Cite as

The influences of weather and topography on water bird migration in the southwestern United States

  • Robert C. Beason


Radar and visual observations were made on water bird migration throuh the Southwest at six stations from February 1973 through November 1974. The influence of weather on nocturnal non-passerine migration in the Southwest is less significant than reported for passerine migration elsewhere. Both seasonality and weather factors influence water bird migration, but the relative contribution of each is strongly dependent on the specific migration season. Spring migration, which has more extreme weather conditions, shows a stronger correlation to meteorological factors. Autumn migration in the Southwest rarely experiences severe weather, and consequently shows a stronger correlation to seasonality than to weather.

The intensity of spring non-passerine migration was highly correlated with height of freezing level, temperature at sunset and midnight, humidity at sunset, cloud height at sunset and midnight, following winds aloft, and inversely related to change in temperature and day of the year. The most important variables listed by the stepwise linear multiple regression analysis were freezing level, following winds aloft, day of the year, and surface wind speed. When the height of the lowest cloud layer was allowed to enter the regression analysis, freezing level and cloud height were the most significant variables, with the intensity of migration higher with higher freezing level and higher cloud base. The most important variables predicting the occurrence or absence of migration were freezing level, barometric pressure and dew point.

Autumn water bird migration was most highly correlated with cloud height and day of the year, and inversely correlated with humidity. The most important variables from the stepwise regression analysis and discriminant function analysis were day of the year, 670 m following-wind speed, and temperature. When cloud height was allowed to enter the model, it was the only significant factor influencing migration. As in spring, higher rates of autumn migration occurred with higher freezing levels.

More migration occurred on the Great Plains than in the Rocky Mountains; but within the mountains, geography had little influence on the intensity of migration. Indirect evidence indicates that waterfowl and shorebirds move over the mountains (up to 2000 m above the surrounding terrain and 3500 m above sea level), rather than around them.


Surface Wind Speed Cloud Layer Spring Migration Cloud Base Discriminant Function Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert C. Beason
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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