Creation: Birds know a storm is coming

Every morning, I put a cup of wild bird seed and peanuts-in-shells (for the blue jays) in my garden, right outside my bedroom window.
The birds come immediately. On most days, they already have been patiently waiting for me, perched in the surrounding bushes and on the gnarled branches of the crab-apple tree — robins, finches, sparrows, passing migratory birds, and of course the blue jays.
Later in the day, the rain doves come to peck the leftovers. By late afternoon, all the seed would be gone.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something odd.
The weather forecasters said a huge storm was coming. The day before the storm’s arrival, at the end of the day, I looked out my bedroom window and saw that most, if not all, of the seed I had put out that morning was still there. It was as if the birds knew a major storm was coming, and took precautionary shelter or flew far far away.
And as serendipity would have it, biologists recently discovered that birds indeed have the ability to predict storms in advance!
Below is a press release from Eurekalert, the global news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, about Golden-winged Warblers in Tennessee knowing in advance the coming of an epic storm that spawned 84 tornadoes and killed 35 people last spring.

Golden-winged warblerGolden-winged warblerGolden-winged Warbler

Birds sensed severe storms and fled before tornado outbreak

Dec. 18, 2014
Golden-winged warblers apparently knew in advance that a storm that would spawn 84 confirmed tornadoes and kill at least 35 people last spring was coming, according to a report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 18. The birds left the scene well before devastating supercell storms blew in.
The discovery was made quite by accident while researchers were testing whether the warblers, which weigh “less than two nickels,” could carry geolocators on their backs. It turns out they can, and much more. With a big storm brewing, the birds took off from their breeding ground in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee, where they had only just arrived, for an unplanned migratory event. All told, the warblers travelled 1,500 kilometers in 5 days to avoid the historic tornado-producing storms.
“The most curious finding is that the birds left long before the storm arrived,” says Henry Streby of the University of California, Berkeley. “At the same time that meteorologists on The Weather Channel were telling us this storm was headed in our direction, the birds were apparently already packing their bags and evacuating the area.
The birds fled from their breeding territories more than 24 hours before the arrival of the storm, Streby and his colleagues report. The researchers suspect that the birds did it by listening to infrasound associated with the severe weather, at a level well below the range of human hearing.
“Meteorologists and physicists have known for decades that tornadic storms make very strong infrasound that can travel thousands of kilometers from the storm,” Streby explains. While the birds might pick up on some other cue, he adds, the infrasound from severe storms travels at exactly the same frequency the birds are most sensitive to hearing.
The findings show that birds that follow annual migratory routes can also take off on unplanned trips at other times of the year when conditions require it. That’s probably good news for birds, as climate change is expected to produce storms that are both stronger and more frequent. But there surely must be a downside as well, the researchers say.
“Our observation suggests [that] birds aren’t just going to sit there and take it with regards to climate change, and maybe they will fare better than some have predicted,” Streby says. “On the other hand, this behavior presumably costs the birds some serious energy and time they should be spending on reproducing.” The birds’ energy-draining journey is just one more pressure human activities are putting on migratory songbirds.
In the coming year, Streby’s team will deploy hundreds of geolocators on the golden-winged warblers and related species across their entire breeding range to find out where they spend the winter and how they get there and back.

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DR. E, Most people, ‘cept us outdoorsy, mountain folk, do not take advantage of natures warning systems. When I was in a rural-country environment growing up we used birds and deer (through ample food supplied) as intruder/trespasser warning systems. When the birds would stop singing or deer stomped, grunted and bolted, we paid attention! Worked every time. 🙂

MA in MO
5 years ago

Just goes to show that the creator, God Almighty, knew what he was doing. My parents could tell a whole lot of things by the weather, I could kick myself for not listening more. The moon controls the ocean tides, why shouldn’t there be many other things nature can tell us. It also says in the Bible that in the last days to look for signs in the Heaven’s.

5 years ago

as i see it…the Animals & Birds do not have free will, & can ONLY be as God wills them…therefore, being directly connected to Our Father, they know by divine prompting…because the Lord loves His Animals & Birds…hense, why they, with Mary, St. Joseph & the Angels, were the first to see the newborn Infant Christ Child. DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER HEAR & BLESS THY PRECIOUS ANIMALS & SINGING BIRDS & GUARD THEM WITH YOUR TENDERNESS YOUR HELPLESS BEASTS THAT HAVE NO WORDS. (prayer by Annette who rescued over 400 cats & kittens, & died in a car crash) A BLESSED… Read more »

5 years ago

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Steven Broiles
5 years ago

Many animals know when a storm or an earthquake is coming. God Bless animals. (And I hope they do have an afterlife). But man, in the words of Lyndon Larouche, is a “noetic animal.” Man alone can plan for and predict the future. And to those who study enough, we, too, can tell that a storm is coming—a human storm, planned by people who have pledged their lives to the Devil! This uneasy period of these past few months is the Calm Before the Storm. The Storm that will wash out the economy, destroy the Rule of Law (or at… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Steven Broiles

Great Nietzsche quote; what is it from?
My father’s from Raiano, Italy [then a village w/o electricity or radios, only 1 car, owned by the MD] in the mountains behind Rome, 1927, age 22. He said horses and other animals became agitated before an earthquake, and everyone in his village of 300 [in those pre-WW2 days] paid attention and sought shelter, or went home immediately.
Pigs were very intelligent and aware of weather, food sources [truffles], and herded together even before humans knew trouble was coming.

Dan Pangburn
Dan Pangburn
5 years ago

At and references listed there, discover findings of unbiased science:
1. Historical evidence that CO2 change does not cause climate change.
2. The two factors that correlate 95% since before 1900 with average global temperature including the current plateau, and predict the ongoing down trend of average global temperature.
3. An explanation of why CO2 change does not cause climate change.

Leeann Springer
Leeann Springer
5 years ago

This is such a wonderful topic Dr. Eowyn: I live on a farm and depend upon my animals, at times, for safety. I have geese, guinaes, chickens, cows, Great Pyrenees and wild life as well. My guineas have certain sounds which indicates various warnings. There are sounds they make when predators are near, when a vehicle is coming on the property, and they have a constant chattering at a high pitched volume before storms. I observe them all the time, especially when they stand in a semi-circle in the pastures, because they are usually crowding a snake. My Great Pyrenees,… Read more »

5 years ago

Thank you Dr. Eowyn for this most interesting post. How incredible, the birds’ senses and knowledge of nature!