Movebank: a global database for animal movement

Movebank: a global database for animal movement

Scientists around the world are examining the movement patterns of migratory species. In particular, formation about the movement of individual animals can tell researchers not only about the individual and collective behavior of species, but also about how animals interact with the environment and respond to changes such as habitat destruction and climate change. However, comparing animal movement data, which is collected by many different research groups using a variety of methods—such as bird ringing, radio telemetry, and GPS tags—remains a challenge. Movebank, an international online database for animal movement hosted by the Dept. of Migration an Immuno-Ecology of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, was created to help researchers manage, share, and analyze their animal tracking data. Movebank is used by thousands of researchers from universities, government agencies, and other research and conservation groups around the world. Movebank has been awarded funding from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the German Science Foundation, NASA, and the US National Science Foundation.


Movebank collaborates with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Ohio State University, the University of Konstanz, the U.S. Geological Survey, the French national bird ringing scheme (CRBPO), and a growing number of tag manufacturers and other animal movement databases. Through these partnerships we have developed novel data analysis tools, supported archiving of hundreds of datasets, and made progress towards shared data standards. Some of the major outcomes of these partnerships include

  • The Env-DATA System, which allows data owners and the public to link animal tracking data in Movebank to environmental information from global remote sensing products and weather models.
  • The Movebank Data Repository, a public archive of animal movement datasets that underlie peer-reviewed research.
  • Archiving of dozens of government-funded animal movement datasets, in particular from the North American Arctic-Boreal region, for use in collaborative and interdisciplinary research.


The Dept. of Migration and Immuno-Ecology of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology uses Movebank to monitor the daily movements of hundreds of birds of several species that migrate within Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Movebank allows researchers of this department to easily view, analyze, and share new movements each day. The department also uses Movebank to archive historical animal tracking data for many species, such as white storks. Movebank will serve as the user data center for the ICARUS Initiative, a new satellite-based system for tracking movements of small animals that is coordinated through the department.

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