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Hurricanes and Birds: Should I Stay or Should I go?

September 19, 2017 2 min read

Hawk in Taxi Cab During Hurricane

Harvey and Irma have passed, Jose and Maria are brewing now. We’re only halfway through hurricane season 2017.

On Youtube, this hawk gained notoriety when he sought refuge in a taxi cab prior to hurricane Harvey. The kindhearted human kept the bird safe until a wildlife rehab group could later retrieve him.

Should I stay or should I go?
We are often plagued by these decisions in our lives and lately, with notice of hurricanes approaching, it is a decision in deal. While we humans consider whether to hunker down or leave our homes during these natural phenomena, our birds face the same dilemma!!!

Although they don’t watch The Weather Channel, advance warning serves them far better because birds are instinctively attuned to shifts in barometric pressure.

A hurricane, being that tumultuous event that it is, will leave birds with the option to flee, coasting on the storm’s outer winds.  This provides opportunities for many to view coastal birds in unusual, unlikely places. For as far as 200-300 miles off the coast, one may find seabirds and committed birdwatchers tracking those unusual sightings. Die-hard bird fans often keep lists of birds and will search for a coastal bird inland with the threat of hurricane weather.

For bird lovers in safe places, this unnatural weather condition provides opportunity to watch for those unusual types e.g., gulls and terns. Often likened to “a bird watcher’s paradise”, those of us who wallow in nature look up to gaze at the clouds in the sky with an added benefit of identifying those coastal birds only available to oceanic vacationers and shore home dwellers. After a hurricane, it’s typical to see a frigate of birds flocking south- back to home territory for safety.

Birds are experienced at weathering hurricanes! They will leave the area for a quick break during the huge wind rages and rains to avoid catastrophic conditions and find shelter for survival. For those of us bird watchers in safe areas where these birds seek refuge, we need to be on alert. To engage in appreciation of the rarity of coastal birds being inland, we need to be quick with the binoculars and cameras. Our bird brethren will depart, return to natural habitat as soon as the sun peeks through, and will head back home by nightfall.  

The reality of bird life is that the decision to “stay or go” isn’t one at all… it’s clear that hurricanes spell trouble for birds. They are instinctive and intelligent enough after centuries of learning that when a hurricane is imminent, it’s time to GO! As a silver lining to the “hurricane event”, be on the look-out for unusual coastal birds as they will flee inland to survive horrific weather conditions.

Straight form a good customer and friend in the Florida Keys (after Irma):
And the birds are all back, even a few new (unknown species) ones which usually happens with a hurricane.  They come in the eye of the storm .... and some brought a friend.  Our white crowned pigeon came back with a friend ... yay!

"May the LORD bless you and keep you; May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."