High-flying birds recruited for meteorology

griffon vulture

Tracking the flight paths of gliding birds such as the griffon vulture can provide helpful measurements of current atmospheric conditions, new research shows.

Ronnie Macdonald/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Weather watching may soon be for the birds.

Monitoring the flight patterns of high-flying birds using GPS tags provides valuable meteorological measurements, researchers demonstrate October 1 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. By tracking 22 griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in southern France, the researchers accurately calculated wind speeds and detected updrafts of warm air that gliding birds use to gain altitude.

As GPS tags become more affordable, future collaborations between bird biologists and meteorologists could help provide a more complete weather snapshot for forecasters, the researchers say.

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