Kranstauber, Bart


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Wind estimation based on thermal soaring of birds

2016, Weinzierl, Rolf, Bohrer, Gil, Kranstauber, Bart, Fiedler, Wolfgang, Wikelski, Martin, Flack, Andrea

The flight performance of birds is strongly affected by the dynamic state of the atmosphere at the birds' locations. Studies of flight and its impact on the movement ecology of birds must consider the wind to help us understand aerodynamics and bird flight strategies. Here, we introduce a systematic approach to evaluate wind speed and direction from the high-frequency GPS recordings from bird-borne tags during thermalling flight. Our method assumes that a fixed horizontal mean wind speed during a short (18 seconds, 19 GPS fixes) flight segment with a constant turn angle along a closed loop, characteristic of thermalling flight, will generate a fixed drift for each consequent location. We use a maximum-likelihood approach to estimate that drift and to determine the wind and airspeeds at the birds' flight locations. We also provide error estimates for these GPS-derived wind speed estimates. We validate our approach by comparing its wind estimates with the mid-resolution weather reanalysis data from ECMWF, and by examining independent wind estimates from pairs of birds in a large dataset of GPS-tagged migrating storks that were flying in close proximity. Our approach provides accurate and unbiased observations of wind speed and additional detailed information on vertical winds and uplift structure. These precise measurements are otherwise rare and hard to obtain and will broaden our understanding of atmospheric conditions, flight aerodynamics, and bird flight strategies. With an increasing number of GPS-tracked animals, we may soon be able to use birds to inform us about the atmosphere they are flying through and thus improve future ecological and environmental studies.


Flying with the wind : scale dependency of speed and direction measurements in modelling wind support in avian flight

2013, Safi, Kamran, Kranstauber, Bart, Cabot, David, Cruz, Sebastian, Proaño, Carolina, Waldenström, Jonas, Bengtsson, Daniel, Kays, Roland, Wikelski, Martin, Bohrer, Gil

Understanding how environmental conditions, especially wind, influence birds' flight speeds is a prerequisite for understanding many important aspects of bird flight, including optimal migration strategies, navigation, and compensation for wind drift. Recent developments in tracking technology and the increased availability of data on large-scale weather patterns have made it possible to use path annotation to link the location of animals to environmental conditions such as wind speed and direction. However, there are various measures available for describing not only wind conditions but also the bird's flight direction and ground speed, and it is unclear which is best for determining the amount of wind support (the length of the wind vector in a bird's flight direction) and the influence of cross-winds (the length of the wind vector perpendicular to a bird's direction) throughout a bird's journey.