are birds scared of thunder

Stormy conditions wreak havoc on bird habitats, and there are many different ways storms cause problems for birds. Still, from hurricanes to hail—blizzards to dust storms, birds manage to survive these dangerous conditions. But how do they do it, and how can birders help keep birds safe from storms?

Get Out of the Way

When bad weather is predicted, some bird species will move away from the area. Since birds don’t have to follow roads or other established routes, they can swiftly avoid the worst weather. The severity of a storm can vary greatly even over a short distance, and birds can readily avoid the path of the strongest storms.

Strong winds can make it appear as though birds are clinging to branches or wires for their lives, but they can easily hang on. Their feet will only release if the bird uses its muscles; otherwise, their talons are closed and locked in their resting position. Because of this, birds can cling tightly to a perch even in the strongest winds.

When the weather is bad, birds will naturally seek cover, tucking their bills into their feathers, crouching low, and taking other precautions to reduce their exposure to hazardous situations. This can prevent them from becoming flooded or experiencing excessive wind. It can keep them dry and warm even in inclement weather.

Many birds have evolved numerous physical defenses to stay warm, even in the face of unexpected cold snaps, icy ice storms, and blizzards. These defenses range from downy feather insulation to a layer of fat reserves that reduces heat loss. Some birds grow thicker winter plumage. Some even drop their body’s temperature and metabolic rate in an attempt to remain cozy, safe, and warm.

But even with these adaptations and survival techniques, storms can still be fatal for birds, and bad weather kills a lot of wild birds. Because birds might not be able to re-nest during the same season, storms that affect nesting areas can be particularly destructive. This can lead to dramatically diminished breeding success.

The past few days have seen some pretty strong storms in Manchester, UK. Since there are a lot of birds where I live, I’ve been wondering how they handle the extreme weather. Archived post. New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast.

Why Storms Can Be Dangerous for Birds

Since each storm is unique, it can have different effects on the birds in your area. The climate, geography, resources that are available, and kinds of birds that are in the storm’s path all affect how dangerous a storm is. However, any storm has the potential to be harmful and could result in issues for birds like:

  • destroying live nests and filling in ground-level nests and nesting tunnels
  • Destroying food crops, killing prey, or otherwise disrupting food sources
  • Disturbing habitat by destroying trees, changing shorelines, or flooding valleys
  • affecting bird migration by requiring them to travel at different times or on different routes
  • Directly killing birds through floods, collisions with obstacles, burials, etc.
  • causing landslides, flash floods, wildfires, or other calamities that injure birds more

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Severe storms can also cause secondary disasters that can be fatal for birds. For instance, an oil spill from a hurricane might harm an offshore oil rig and affect seabirds and coastal birds for weeks after the storm has passed. A tornado may cause damage to a power line, sparking a wildfire that spreads miles from the original storm and destroys grassland habitat.


Where do birds go during a thunderstorm?

Different birds use different ways to wait out a storm. Birds that normally roost in a cavity—such as chickadees, small owls, woodpeckers—hide out in their cavity. They may also use roost boxes. Sometimes more than a dozen birds will pile into a single box to conserve heat.

Are wild birds scared of thunder?

Some birds have no problem with thunderstorms or fireworks, and may even enjoy watching them. Others shake, hide, or, worse yet, bolt off or thrash.

Can birds hear thunder?

Birds are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, and studies have shown that birds can hear infrared sounds, so it makes sense to think they may be able to hear large storms coming. Birds that find themselves in the path of a major storm may adjust their path.

What do birds get scared of?

Generally speaking, birds hate strong smells, shiny objects, and predators, such as birds of prey and larger animals or humans.