How do birds fare in storms, thunderstorms and rain?

Have you ever wondered what birds do during storms and thunderstorms? Rarely do you see them in the sky or waterfowl in the water during a storm. But where exactly are the animals and what are they doing? Here are four examples from the bird kingdom.

"Oh!  A storm is brewing, I have to seek shelter"this gray heron thinks and starts – Shutterstock / Pavel Mikoska

“Oh ha! There’s a thunderstorm coming up, I have to seek shelter,” this gray heron thinks and starts – Shutterstock / Pavel Mikoska

Birds have been on Earth for an incredibly long time, surviving the Ice Age and witnessing millions of years of climate change. Enough time to learn strategies to protect them from wind and heavy rain. And not only that: It is interesting that the ways of surviving extreme weather conditions differ from species to species.

The Perseverers: Together we are stoic

Some birds including seagulls, geese, waders and even penguins do it the easy way: they just hold out during a thunderstorm and wait until the weather gets better. Whenever possible, the birds move close together and move into a position that offers as little a target as possible for storms and rain. The animal’s practical plumage, which has first-class warming properties, does the rest.

During storms and bad weather, large birds of prey such as sea eagles, kites or buzzards simply sit calmly in elevated positions, so-called perches, true to the motto: “I have to go through this now, it will get better soon”.

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Those seeking protection: waterfowl are hiding

ducks, greylag geese and swans, i.e. waterfowl, do things similarly but a little differently. They also persevere, but look for hiding places especially in bad weather. But where do the birds go for this?

Waterfowl slip between shore plants, hide in sheltered bays or caves in the shore area. Rain doesn’t bother the plumage thanks to a special fat secretion that the animals produce with the help of their so-called preen gland. So they can wait in their cover until the sky clears again.

Small birds behave in a similar way: They also flee into hiding places when it rains. For example, our garden birds such as sparrows and blackbirds fly into trees, nesting boxes and buildings or seek protection in dense hedges and, if necessary, in undergrowth. The herb layer on the ground is rarely used as cover.

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The avoiders: Special case swifts

Incidentally, there are also birds such as the common swift, which generally avoid bad weather fronts – this is not always perfectly feasible, but works quite well in most cases.

If a storm lasts for several days and thus keeps adult swifts away from their young, the birds also have a special strategy for this: the young birds fall into a so-called torpor, a kind of lethargic state. Breathing rate and body temperature are reduced so much that the little birds can survive for up to a week without food. Usually more than enough time for their parents to return to the home nest after a thunderstorm.

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The Protectors: Children, stay dry!

Most bird parents, on the other hand, sacrifice themselves for their offspring and remain in the nest so that the little ones don’t get wet. Breeding birds in particular stay on the nest for as long as possible and warm the eggs.

Ground breeders press as close as possible to the nest in order to offer the smallest possible surface for the weather to attack. Birds such as the osprey or the storkwhich breed relatively unprotected, simply hold out in the rain and demonstrate amazing resilience to storms, thunderstorms and the like during breeding or rearing.

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