Birds or insects? Large unidentifiable mass on Colorado radar is likely thousands of birds

Posted at 9:50 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-04 00:31:38-04

BOULDER, Colo. -- Something was flocking to Denver from the southeast Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service posted radar images on its Facebook page showing what it said was likely a massive flock of birds moving across several counties in Colorado.

Forecasters at the NWS in Boulder said they were pretty confident it was a large mass of birds popping up on the radar based at the Front Range Airport -- something common this time of year.

Chad Gimmestad told Denver7 they may have been songbirds moving together.

“We usually see dust and insects. So this is either a lot of insects or something bigger, like birds,” said Gimmestad.

White moving specks were likely thousands of bird birds spread out over a span of between 40 and 50 miles. The purple color surrounding the white specks is called an echo, and is usually visible on the radar. It’s normally made up of dust or insects in the air.

“There’s either a lot more of something there or something that’s bigger than what we usually see,” Gimmestad said.

To put things in perspective, Gimmestad explained that because the radar is extremely sensitive, the big moving mass on the radar is less concentrated than a basic rainstorm. It does take skill to figure out what is popping up on the radar.

“Relatively new technology on our radars helps us to discriminate what kind of thing we are looking at by looking at the shape as well as the velocity,” said Gimmestad.

He added that the flock of birds was most likely not visible from the ground, as they were several thousand feet up in the air.