These highways in the air are really busy every spring and autumn

It is not only humans who like to travel to distant destinations, but some animals travel long distances twice a year. I am not talking about your dog that you may take along for road trips in your motorhome, but birds that migrate every spring and autumn. Movebank has created a fascinating animation that shows the routes birds fly.

Movebank animation of bird migration routes Movebank is a free, online database of animal tracking data hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. In order to visualize the routes birds use when they migrate, researchers have created an animation from the animal tracking data stored in the database.

The animation below shows animal movements across the globe based on GPS and Argos Doppler tracking data.

In Europe, the major routes for birds are along the Atlantic coast and over the Iberian peninsula to Africa, and along the east coast of the Mediterranean over Turkey and eastern Europe.

In America, the major routes follow the Pacific coast and the Atlantic coast.

In Asia, Borneo and the Philippines islands get plenty of birds during migration to Russia.

The data includes animal tracks of all species covering at least 500 km distance in one direction during at least 45 days. Data from October 2016 were used (about 8,000 tracks) for the animation. Data were filtered to remove outliers but it is likely that some remain. The movements were combined into one synthetic year. Four similar synthetic tracks were added for each real track. Movements between recorded locations were calculated using spline interpolation.

Here is the same animation as above, but projected on the globe:

The animation was created by Matthias Berger ( The software is Java/OpenGL code written Matthias Berger. Background imagery comes from Blue Marble—Next Generation, produced by Reto Stöckli, NASA Earth Observatory (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may view our Privacy Policy for details how your information is managed.