Although we have the best technology and the best technological advances in forecasting weather, a recent study has suggested that small songbirds are giving meteorologists a run for their money.
The golden-winged warbler has recently become well known in the world of weather predictions. This North American bird species only weighs as much as a couple of nickels, but its forecasting talent could carry major weight when it comes to predicting severe weather. Last spring, thousands of warblers fled their breeding grounds in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee – 24 hours before a destructive storm system blew through the state. Intense thunderstorms and 84 confirmed tornados ripped across several states. This weather system resulted in 35 deaths and an estimated $1 billion in damages spanning over 17 states.
Is it a fluke that these golden-winged warblers fled the area before they could get hit by the storm – scientists aren’t convinced…
Data collected by researchers proved that these birds flew almost 2,000 kilometers off their course in order to avoid the storm. Furthermore, once the storm passed they returned home.
As it turns out, birds can take notice of and respond to low-frequency noises known as infrasound. Produced by man-made and natural sources, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tornadoes, the infrasound can travel for thousands of kilometers, but cannot be heard by the human ear but can be detected by our feathered friends.
Obviously, birds have a great talent in navigating themselves, especially in their migratory patterns. Some researchers suggest that they have a sense for environmental and geographical factors because they can sense different magnetic fields. Yet, when scientists attempted to prove this theory by cutting the nerve in the beak that they felt was responsible for this talent – there was no change in the bird's ability to navigate and nor did it hinder their weather prediction.
Perhaps a bird just has a sixth sense that we cannot explain (hence the definition of sixth sense). You may have noticed that your bird feeder becomes a little less active when a storm is about to roll in. So instead of solely relying on the weather network or the news, why not just take a quick look at the bird activity in your backyard to see what type of day you can expect outside!