Wings Of A Storm
The next time you see a flock of birds suddenly take flight, you might want to check the long‑term weather report.
Because, evidently, at least some birds may be able to sense oncoming storms long before the first signs of inclement weather appear.
Scientists studying the migratory patterns of golden‑winged warblers equipped with trackers noticed that just a few days before a powerful storm hit the mid‑southern Tennessee region in April 2014, a bunch of the birds winged their way from Tennessee to Florida, flying nearly 700 miles.
Never mind that the birds had just completed a more than 3000‑mile migration from South America. Somehow, they sensed the storm coming and hit the airways.
So how did the birds sense the storm? At first the scientists suspected that the birds detected subtle changes in atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind speed, and other indicators. But weather records showed no major fluctuations before the storm.
So it seems more likely that the approaching storm produced low frequency sound waves, known as infrasounds, that birds can hear but people can't.
It's known that tornadoes create infrasounds that can travel thousands of miles. So the birds may have actually heard the storm coming.
Now, it's obviously not always the case that birds in flight are fleeing from an impending storm. But when golden‑winged warblers and possibly other birds hear a storm on the march, they know enough to head in the opposite direction.
"Birds Can Sense Impending Storm, Skip Town" (Science Magazine)