When we have a storm we usually have advanced warning and we know to take cover. Some birds have their own early warning system and how they handle the storm very much depends on what sort of bird they are and what type of storm we have.
Birds have their own built-in storm preparation and are uniquely adapted to wet and windy weather.
- Feathers are very effective and natural insulation. They trap air and in doing so stop colder air from getting to the birds body. In bad or cold weather birds can simply fluff out their feathers to keep themselves warm.
- Birds and animals can often sense an oncoming storm. As the barometric pressure alters they know to prepare themselves.
- If a bird senses a storm it knows it will need to store energy. During a storm birds will not go out and forage for food so they will increase their levels of fat as much as they can before the storm arrives.
Types of storm
The severity of the storm will play a big part in what the bird will do and how it will react. If storm is particularly severe it has been known to kill birds. There are so many different types of storm it is impossible to predict exactly what birds will do but let’s take a look to find out their most usual behavior.
You may have seen birds flying around during windy weather and their aerodynamics makes it possible for them to fly unharmed. If the wind is particularly strong t can blow a bird of course and this is where you can see a non-native species in an area where it would not normally be. Birds know when the weather is too bad for them to try to fly.
Many storms consist of strong winds and rain but do not pose any actual threat. During these storms birds will most likely find shelter.
- If they have a nest or a cavity where they roost they will often return to it and remain there until the storm has passed. You may see several birds huddled together to help keep themselves warm.
- If they have no nest they will find shelter in trees and bushes to protect them from the wind. Perching birds also have an advantage, as their feet grip when they relax, so they can hold on during high winds with minimal effort.
- Birds can also use their brains during a storm. They will seek shelter on the lee side of a tree and so will be protected from the force of the storm. If the wind changes direction, they will move to the other side.
Birds even know what to do in cold weather. They will sit as high as possible to get as much benefit from the heat of the winter sun as they can.
Hurricanes can cause severe damage and potential loss of life to humans. For birds the danger is just the same. If they shelter in their nests or in trees, there is a danger the storm will damage the tree and potentially kill the bird.
Birds which are able to sense an oncoming storm are able to fly away and get ahead of a hurricane. This may lead them to an area where they are not native, but they will soon return home once the storm has passed, though some birds do get a bit lost and end up staying where they are.
If you’re after additional info on birds behaviour in hurricanes, take a look at the video below or click here to watch on YouTube.
Tornadoes are quite simply deadly and birds will sense them and fly out of the way. As tornadoes can form very quickly it is not always possible for birds to fly away, and if they can’t then the tornado will probably kill them.
During the winter many birds will migrate south to a warmer and more stable climate. Those who don’t are prepared for the colder temperatures and can survive the worst snowstorms.
Birds are well prepared for colder temperatures. They have something called counter-current exchange in their legs. Simply put, if they stand on something cold, instead of feeling the cold, their body will send cold blood to their feet, while sending warm blood to the rest of their body.
The hardest part for birds is not surviving the storm but finding food and shelter afterwards. After severe storms their nest may have been blown down and food may not be as easy to find. In cases like this, putting out nesting materials and roosting boxes can be vital, as is putting food out to help them recover quickly from the devastation of a storm.