Bird Migrations and Hurricanes

Hurricane season is really tough on birds. It happens during migration

BirdCast Live Migration Map, 9/14/2018
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

when many millions of birds are on the move, and it can be anywhere from disruptive to deadly. Birds do the best they can to avoid the maelstrom and being blown off course or worse, but very little is known about how bird flight patterns are affected during a hurricane.

From radar reports we know that some birds get caught in the eye of the storm which may work for a limited period of time. But staying in the eye requires constant flying and a lot of birds get exhausted waiting for the hurricane to dissipate. Those who do make it through can find themselves hundreds of miles from where they started and often in a strange and unfriendly habitat where the food they need to survive isn’t available.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been studying bird migration flight patterns for years and is gaining insights we never had before about bird migration adjustments during hurricanes. Their project BirdCast shows video of real time flight patterns caught on radar.  In the image above taken from the video during Hurricane Florence, you can see how birds try to circumnavigate the high winds, moving inland from the storm. This is interesting to see, and provides important scientific evidence of the effects of hurricanes on migration.