Researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville said they have always known the Texas Coast was a critical area for bird migration, but in recent years they have discovered just how important it really is.
Based on the observations of a high-tech bird radar system, researchers said there is probably at least tens of millions of birds that migrate through South Texas every fall and every spring.
It's called site 55, and it's an area along Baffin Bay that TAMUK owns. Research Scientist Bart Ballard gave an exclusive look at the state of the art bird radar system.
"A lot of these birds migrate at night, which obviously we can't see," Ballard said. "Some of the birds migrate at altitudes that we're not able to detect visually, so it's a tool that increases our ability to more accurately count birds passing through the area."
The system allows researchers to monitor birds in areas and habitats in the air space that they've never been able to accurately monitor before, and the results have been surprising.
"We're finding passage rates of migratory birds two to three times more than anywhere else that's been recorded in North America," Ballard said.
The sheer magnitude of bird migration has been the biggest revelation to researchers, but the radar system tracks a lot more than that.
"It actually records this data to a data set," Ballard said. "It records about 24 different attributes of every target that's recorded on here, including all kinds of geomorphic measurements, speed, size."
The radar system records millions of observations and digitizes them. The dots represent birds, and flocks of birds.
Hundreds of different species pass through this area, making for lots of interesting events to watch, like a flock of hawks circling and finding an updraft to follow south.