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At Terna, we have trove of fascinating and potentially useful data to share. Thanks to the fact that one of our biggest investment projects of recent years crosses a major avian migration route, we have collected a mass of information about bird movements that could be of great interest to the scientific community.

Our monitoring over the Strait of Messina, the narrow stretch of water that separates Sicily from the Italian mainland, originated from a practical requirement: we needed to demonstrate to the Italian government that a new 700 million-euro power connector would not interfere with the millions of birds that fly through this area as they pass between northern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. (Happily we found no such evidence).

Rather than use traditional monitoring methods, which rely only on direct human observation, we installed two radar devices – one on each side of the straits – which gathered information on the number, direction and altitude of birds of prey and passerines both during the day and at night, whatever the weather.

This innovative approach is proving to be of great interest to ornithologists and researchers both in Italy and around the world as well as companies building or managing infrastructure of different kinds.

Discover our story of watching bird migrations 24/7.

Mappa rilevamenti

How we gathered information on 115,000 bird flights and matched radar signals to actual species

Over the course of three years of monitoring with our two radars, one on Calabrian side near Sant'Eufemia d'Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria) and the other in the Sicilian village of Serro (Messina), we captured 115,000 flights during the two migration seasons:

Below you can explore the most significant figures and download the raw data. (LINK FILE CSV)
  • 70,000 during the spring (15 March-31 May)
  • 45,000 during the autumn (15 August-30 September)

With the support of 12 full-time ornithologists from Ornis Italica, a non-profit association based in Rome, we matched our radar signals to direct observation of the various species. They also carried out inspections under the lines to make sure “dissuader” devices did their job of avoiding birds colliding with our new power lines.

The most common species we saw were European honey buzzards, Western marsh harriers, black kites and, beyond birds of prey, European bee-eaters.

Below you can explore the most significant figures and download the raw data under license creative commons
Download data
Author: Ornis Italica within the monitoring plan of Terna Rete Italia Spa.

Three-year trend

* 2014 pre-construction monitoring.
+ 2015 in the first post-construction season, no flights were recorded on the Sicilian side because the power line was not yet completed.

Curiosities for birders

  • In the autumn of 2016 an imperial eagle passed overhead, coming from Slovakia and fitted with a GPS transmitter.
  • In the same season, we saw 7 Eurasian dotterels and two flamingos.
  • In spring 2015, there was an important passage of pallid harriers, with about 100 animals sighted.