how does weather affect bird migration

Good or Bad: Weather Makes a Huge Difference in Bird Migration

The temperature has a big influence on bird behavior and determines whether they stay or migrate. Here are a few examples:

  • Millions of birds may relocate in response to cold snaps in search of food and warmer weather. If a sudden, unseasonal freeze reduces their food supply, birds that feed on insects and nectar may go hungry.
  • Conversely, unseasonably warm weather can have birds hanging around. Certain species, such as a large number of waterfowl, will only migrate as far as they can find food and open water. Lakes and rivers may remain open for much longer if they remain warm and free of ice.

Storms have the potential to significantly alter seasonal patterns and bird migration routes, including:

  • Birds may get blown hundreds of miles off course by a powerful thunderstorm, or they may be forced to hunker down, gather, and remain still for several days longer than usual. The direction that storms are blowing in is closely monitored by birdwatchers to determine the optimal time to see migrants.
  • Snowstorms can drastically cut down on the amount of food available, forcing birds to migrate further south than they would otherwise.
  • When there are strong winds, birds must fly at different altitudes or seek cover, sometimes inside of large buildings like offices.
  • Birds may get blown off course by winds and end up in strange new places.
  • Certain birds, like thrushes, buntings, and warblers, use the stars to guide them and stay still on overcast nights.

Some encounters can be extraordinary enough to bring attention, said Felicia Lee, a current board member of the Alachua Audubon Society. That’s the case with the Common Merganser wandering across Alachua County after it was last seen on Dec. 21, 1966, according to the non-profit organization’s birds checklist.

Policies protecting nature exist, especially for migrant birds. TheMigratory Bird Treaty Act “prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” The treaty allows native migratory birds to come back and forth when time is due.

On Nov. 5, he was one of about forty people who strolled to Depot Park for the Birds and Brews event at First Magnitude Brewing Company in Gainesville, which was organized by the Audubon Chapter of Alachua County. All of them anticipated seeing birds that called Gainesville home, but most of all, seeing those birds come to town each year.

According to the non-profit organization, Audubon Florida, more than 500 birds reside and travel across the state of Florida. From June to January, that number varies as fallbird migration periods begin. But drastic changes in weather are forcing birds to either adapt or change their migration patterns if they want to reach their final destinations.


How does climate impact migratory birds?

Sudden changes can trigger early or even delayed migration affecting birds that are just passing by the area to recharge. She said warmer weather can cause birds to arrive after insects emerge and leave them without a source of energy to continue their journey.

How do storms affect migrating birds?

Before and after flights, when migrants have higher than normal food requirements, they may have problems finding safe supplies of food in areas devastated by storms. Resident birds in hurricane areas also suffer when their food supplies, such as fruits and berries, are stripped from trees and shrubs.

Does wind affect bird migration?

The other thing birds base their decision to leave upon is weather, specifically wind. And it effects how many migrants might be arriving on a particular day at a particular place. Put another way, birds’ instincts effect the range of dates they arrive, weather influences the specific dates.

What do migrating birds do when raining?

So rather than fly, many birds perch and conserve energy during a storm. They sit it out under the cover of a tree. Or perch on a fence wire facing into the wind, reducing their air resistance — and limiting the loss of precious body heat. But when the storm passes, birds once again take to the skies.