BirdScan MR1

The compact radar system for quantitative research on aerial fauna

The bio monitoring systems measures the bird and bat movement using a rotating horn antenna. In addition to the analyses of the spatiotemporal distribution, the system offers real time classification and quantification represented as mean traffic rate. Data are stored in raw format and is available for further processing.

General description

BirdScan MR1 is a compact radar system for the quantitative long-term monitoring of birds and bats. It uses a vertically directed conically shaped wide aperture beam with a nutating movement. This setup allows to record a rich set of information for each target:

  • Precise recording of target’s height above ground.
  • Wing flapping pattern which is necessary to exclude non-bird and non-bat echos like insects and allows classification of bird echos into sub-groups.
  • Precise knowledge of surveyed volume which is necessary to estimate the number of birds aloft per volume, i.e. to compute Migration Traffic Rate for specific altitude layers (birds / horizontal km * hour).
  • Flight direction and speed of target is obtained from the nutating beam.
  • Shape of target (long vs. round) is obtained from circularly polarized beam.
  • X-band radar which can detect even small birds (e.g. small passerines) and bats up to 1000 m and large birds (e.g. gulls) up to 2000 m.
  • Bio monitoring of birds, bats and insects. (read more about bats in this article)

Comparison to traditional bird-radars

Traditional horizontally or vertically rotating bird-radars only illuminate a target for a fraction of second and wing-flapping pattern cannot be recorded. Therefore non-bird echos like insects cannot be properly excluded. In traditional rotating radars the surveyed volume is generally not well-defined and therefore computation of MTR is problematic.

Echo continuously flapping bird

Example of echo from a bird recorded by MR1 system

Wing-flapping pattern

The wing-flapping pattern is recorded and can be extracted automatically, here a continuously flapping bird with 8 wing-beats per second.

Characteristics in detail

Birds and bats are detected using pulsed radar that emits beams vertically across a conically-shaped field from a corrugated Horn-antenna with a wide aperture angle. BirdScan consists of a transmitter/receiver unit and a computer and analysis unit. The system can be monitored remotely if connected to the internet.

Inside life of MR1


Wind turbines

The MR1 radar can be placed as close as 150 m to a turbine with a height of 90 m (hub height + rotor radius). Like for any radar, a rotating blade within the measurement range would produce strong disturbances and would make it hard to properly detect all birds. Generally, it is advisable to keep a distance of at least twice the height of the windturbine.

Offshore deployment

The offshore version of the BirdScan MR1 replaces some components with more robust parts in order to withstand offshore conditions. This version can be deployed offshore on a platform.

High quality offline-analytics

BirdScan MR1 radar systems can reliably detect even small passerines and small bats. Hundreds of thousands echos per month can be recorded. To leverage the full potential of this data, our experts can provide detailed off-line analytic services to crunch the data and deliver high quality analyses and reports for impact assessment reports or scientific publications. A few examples of display items are shown in the following illustrations:

Altitude display

Precise estimation of altitude

BirdScan radar systems provide a precise estimation of altitude above ground of each detected bird or bat allowing to compute Migration Traffic Rate for specific altitude layers. Here standard altitude of 100 m (left) or 50 m (right).

Daily migration traffic

Migration traffic rate per day

Based on onset of dawn and dusk, the Migration Traffic Rate can be computed on a per day basis. Here for altitudes in 50 – 1000 m. Custom altitude and time resolutions are also possible.

Details time and height migration

Time and height migration profile

Detailed time*height migration profile. For each day and each night altitude distribution is plotted as box-plots. This allows a detailed assessment of collision risks at specific heights.

MTR Mean per-hour

Per-hour mean MTR

Per-hour mean MTR can be computed from seasonal or monthly data. Relevant information can be plotted jointly (herelight/dark periods).

Flight direction profiles

Detailed flight direction profiles

Thanks to its slight rotation, MR1 can measure the flight directions of individual birds and bats. This allows to derive detailed flight direction profiles. In this example for four consecutive nights.

Functionality of BirdScan MR1

Product Specification 

Features and functionality Details
usage biomonitoring
area of application  research, environmental studies, continuous long term monitoring 
sensing technology  pulse radar 
antenna system  corrugated horn (rotating) 
transmitter frequency  x-band fixed 
transmitting power  25 kW peak 
range (height)  2000 m 
resolution in space  10m 
spatiotemporal distribution  height, speed, direction 
classification  per species group 
mean traffic rate  selectable heights 
raw data  available for offline analyses 
operation  automatic 24 h 
electrical connection  1x230V 300W 
communication  LAN / WAN / GPRS 
weight  Approx. 100 kg 
environmental design  MIL STD 810 F 
climate kit (optional)  HVAC, 1x230V 700W, 30kg 
offshore kit (optional)  available 

MR1 / MV1 Publications

Cecilia Nilsson, Adriaan M. Dokter, Baptiste Schmid, Martina Scacco, Liesbeth Verlinden, Johan Bäckman, Günther Haase, Giacomo Dell’Omo, Jason W. Chapman, Hidde Leijnse, Felix Liechti (2018)

Field validation of radar systems for monitoring bird migration

Journal of Applied Ecology; 2018;00:1–13.

Birgen Haest, Felix Liechti, Will L. Hawkes, Jason Chapman, Susanne Akesson, Judy Shamoun-Baranes, Anna P. Nesterova, Vincent Comor, Damiano Preatoni and Silke Bauer (2024)

Continental-scale patterns in diel flight timing of high-altitude migratory insects

Simon Hirschhofer, Felix Liechti, Peter Ranacher, Robert Weibel, Baptiste Schmid (2024)

High-intensity bird migration along Alpine valleys calls for protective measures against anthropogenically induced avian mortality

Yuval Werber, Hadar Sextin, Yossi Yovel, Nir Sapir (2023)

BATScan: A radar classification tool reveals large-scale bat migration patterns

Knop, E., Grimm, M.L., Korner-Nievergelt, F. et al. (2023)

Patterns of high-flying insect abundance are shaped by landscape type and abiotic conditions.

Giuntini S, Tattoni C, Gagliardi A, Martinoli A, Patocchi N, Lardelli R, et al. (2022)

Limnology for the ornithologist: effects of Lake Maggiore water level on migratory flows.

Shi, X.; Schmid, B.; Tschanz,P.; Segelbacher, G.; Liechti, F. (2021)

Seasonal Trends in Movement Patterns of Birds and Insects Aloft Simultaneously

Tschanz, P.; Pellissier, L.; Shi, X.; Liechti, F.; Schmid, B. (2020)

Consistency of spatio-temporal patterns of avian migration across the Swiss lowlands

Liechti, F., Aschwanden, J., Blew, J., Boos, M., Brabant, R., Dokter, A. M., Kosarev, V., Lukach, M., Maruri, M., Reyniers, M., Schekler, I., Schmaljohann, H., Schmid, B., Weisshaupt, N. and Sapir, N. (2019)

Crosscalibration of different radar systems for monitoring nocturnal bird migration across Europe and the Near East

Baptiste Schmid, Serge Zaugg, Stephen C. Votier, Jason W. Chapman, Mathieu Boos and Felix Liechti (2019)

Size matters in quantitative radar monitoring of animal migration: estimating monitored volume from wingbeat frequency

Matthias Schmidt, Janine Aschwanden, Felix Liechti, Gábor Wichmann, Erwin Nemeth (2017)

Comparison of visual bird migration counts with radar estimates

Serge Zaugg, Gilbert Saporta, Emiel van Loon, Heiko Schmaljohann and Felix Liechti (2008)

Automatic identification of bird targets with radar via patterns produced by wing flapping

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