Finding Buzzard Habitat By Satellite
Bird On! News
27th March 1997
The classic way of finding out where birds are is to get the birders out in the field to find and map the birds. Using maps of the habitat can tell one a little about the suitability of the environment for the birds but it is pretty useless for predicting exactly where they will be.
The development of satellite technology and GIS (Global Information Systems) have changed all that. It is now possible to get much more detailed information and to be able to predict what will be occupied by a particular species with some degree of accuracy. Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology (33, 1541-1550) Graham Austin, Chris Thomas, David Houston and Des Thompson describe how this works for Buzzard nests in Argyll, Scotland.
All sorts of measurements were entered on the computer including slope, ruggedness, altitude and aspect and the environmental data (including Man-made features) was extracted for 500 metre grid cells at various diameters related to what the Buzzards might be using. The best predictor was a combination of altitude, boundary length between different vegetation types (particularly new forestry and open ground) and moorland. The model was very good on the area from which it was developed - 96.88% successful. On the test area it was 82.35% successful. This is a very good result for the detailed prediction of nesting areas within the broad distribution of a species.