What Do Birds Do in a Storm?


What do Birds Do in a Storm?

Ever wonder what birds do and where do they go in a

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

snow or rainstorm? Or is there is anything you can do to make getting through these storms safer for them? Well, our readers have asked these questions, and we have some answers to this question and some things you can do to help.

When the weather turns cold or wet, or worse, even icy, we can generally go inside or bundle up – staying warm and dry. Birds don’t have that option, but they need to remain out of the elements in order to stay dry.

Being wet, even in summer, isn’t something birds want for very long. A quick spring or summer bath to clean their feathers followed by a sunny preen is one thing. But becoming soaked to their skin in a torrential storm takes away all insulating properties from their feathers and birds can get cold, even hypothermic, fairly quickly. Fortunately, birds can often tell when a storm is coming and will do a couple of things. First they will stock up on food as they don’t know how long they will need to be hidden, and then they search out a safe and dry location out of the wind and pounding rain or snow.

If they already have a nesting hole, they will hunker down there. If not, they are going to search for a similar kind of place that gives them the protection they need. If the bird can’t get into a completely dry location, the best place to hide is on a branch close to the tree trunk on the leeward side of the tree. In this way, the wind will be somewhat blocked by the trunk and if the tree is a pine or leafed out, there will be some additional blockage of wind and rain.

Waterfowl may stay in the open water unless it is very windy, and waders, and some waterfowl, may look for a more secure location to avoid being buffeted by winds. Perching birds have an unusual mechanism in their feet where their toes will lock around a branch when they are relaxed. This enables them to remain in the secure spot and sleep even during wind and rain.

All these are great natural ways to survive, but there are not always a lot of choices for birds to find food ahead of time and a dry, safe spot. As we change and remove their habitats – taking down large trees, or rotted trees with dry hidey-holes in them – many birds cannot make it through the  storm – and are either buffeted about by the winds or succumb to hypothermia through lack of brush_pile suitable place to hide.

You can help birds have access to safe places to hide in the event of a storm, snow or excessive wind or cold. Building a large brush pile, putting up a roost box, creating a safe planted area which is sheltered from winds and rain, and keeping your feeders full – all can be a welcome relief to birds looking for a place to hide from the elements. These are all easy things to do in your yard, so take stock of what you have and make life easier for the birds in your yard!