Most birds can fly in the rain, but they will only go for short distances. Their body and feathers are designed to withstand some exposure to water, but too much can be harmful for them.
- 1 Are Birds Waterproof?
- 2 How Birds Keep Warm & Dry
- 3 What Different Birds Do In The Rain
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Birds Waterproof?
To a certain extent, yes, they are.
To keep them dry, their feathers are coated so that water rolls off. When they use a bird bath and preen, they are spreading oil from their oil glands over their feathers to keep them healthy and waterproof.
Underneath their feathers are pockets of air. If they are out in heavy rain or for too long, these can fill with water. Not only will this affect their ability to fly, but it will also affect their temperature and in extreme cases can cause hypothermia.
Birds also find it harder to fly when it’s raining, due to the drop in air pressure. Flying through low air pressure takes much more effort, so the birds instead choose to sit and see it out.
When rain starts, birds will look for shelter, return to their nest, or simply hide in shrubs or bushes until it stops. They do need to eat regularly, though, so if the rain is prolonged, they will venture out to eat, and then return to their shelter.
There are, of course, some birds which are built for water, and although you may not see them fly, ducks will be quite happy to stay out in the rain.
How Birds Keep Warm & Dry
When it rains, birds instinctively know what to do. Depending on how heavy the rain is, they will fluff up or flatten their feathers.
- In light rain, they will fluff up their feathers to keep themselves warm.
- In heavier rain, they flatten their feathers down which makes them more water resistant.
They also know some other neat tricks to keep warm and dry.
- If the rain is heavy, they will sit with their bodies upright, head withdrawn and their beaks pointing up. Withdrawing their heads helps to keep them warm and this position helps the rain to slide off them, so it does not make them cold.
- Some birds like to huddle together in the rain. This keeps them all as warm and dry as possible.
If you live in a hot, dry area, then you may find that birds react differently to rain. If there has been no rain for some time, you can see birds in the trees spreading their feathers and using the rain to clean themselves and cool down.
What Different Birds Do In The Rain
How a bird reacts in the rain has a lot to do with where it lives and its size. Not all birds eat the same food or like the same weather conditions, and some actually enjoy the wetter weather.
Seabirds, such as gulls, love water and can handle rain a lot better than some land birds. They are more likely to carry on as normal if it rains, but they do seek shelter if they feel a storm coming on. This isn’t because of the rain, though, but because of the potential severity of the winds.
Land birds come in all shapes and sizes, so what works for one bird in the rain, may not work for another.
Most land birds seek shelter if they sense or feel rain. They will hide in bushes, shrubs, out houses and roofs. Wherever they can shelter, they will. Some larger birds will sit in the open, on cables and prepare themselves to see out the rain.
Smaller birds need to keep warm and dry, so they will find shelter or huddle together. They are only likely to venture out in the rain to feed, particularly if they are nursing their young.
Birds use a lot of energy keeping warm, so it’s essential they conserve their body heat during heavy rain. Some birds will sit still, just as they do during the night so they use a little energy as possible.
Other land birds, like the rain, or at least the chance to feed off the food it brings. American Robins in particular, love feeding off worms which have come out of the soil because of the wet weather. Birds which eat insects, can face a problem during prolonged rain, as insects won’t be flying around so they could face a lack of food.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do birds get hypothermia in the rain?
Smaller birds are more prone to this than larger ones, and only if they stay in the rain too long.
In heavy rain, or if a bird can’t find any shelter, the water will eventually get in to the air pockets under their wings. These then get full of water and will cause the body temperature of the bird to fall. This can be enough in itself to cause hypothermia, but if the bird is also unable to dry out properly, the prolonged cold water next to their body will eventually cool them too far and hypothermia will set in.
Why don’t birds wait until the rain stops to feed?
In many cases, this is exactly what birds will do. If the rain lasts several hours, though, or for a few days, then they won’t survive if they don’t eat. Most birds need to feed several times a day to keep their strength up. Missing a feed because it’s raining can be detrimental to their health. When it’s raining, they will only stop out as long as it takes to get the food they need before they return to shelter.
What should I do if I see a bird sheltering in my yard?
The best thing would be to leave it, otherwise you could frighten it. If it is not sheltered and is getting wet, don’t pick it up. Find an old flower pot or bucket and place it on its side close to where the bird is. If you leave it alone it may then use that to shelter until the rain stops. You can put some food in too if you want, so the bird doesn’t have to go out in the rain to feed.
Birds have excellent senses and can detect changes in air pressure. They know when rain is on the way and can prepare themselves in advance. They are well designed to withstand most weather conditions and know instinctively what they need to do to. They generally don’t need much help, except with food. Very wet conditions can mean less food to eat, so making sure they have plenty of dry food, can help them to stay healthy during even the heaviest of rain storms.