🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hurricane Sandy and birds

Devestation on the North Coast of South Africa after a storm in 2007
With the whole world watching the progression and now, aftermath, of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast of America, my thoughts of sorrow and compassion for the people involved turned anxiously to the animals that were caught up in this tragedy. Reading other animal lovers' plight and preparations for the safety of their pets and farm animals, had me feeling thankful that we have hardly ever experienced something similar here in South Africa. We don't get hurricanes and have only had a few small (compared to what the rest of the world suffers) tornadoes. Our last big, scary storm that hit our North Coast was in May 2007, when properties on the beach were severely damaged, but luckily with no loss of life.
I just cannot imagine what it must entail to suffer the loss of animals and pets during such a disaster and what preparation it must take to safe-guard, not just your own family and property, but the animals as well.

It is said that chickens, like birds, can predict the weather. Just last week I saw my hens gathering close together on an overcast, windy day, looking rather disturbed and then being led into the coop by Artemis, the rooster. Shortly after we had a HUGE hailstorm, with hail the size of golf balls, destroying half my garden and even damaging windows and cars. But the chooks were safely ensconced in the coop, obviously knowing what was coming.

Many birders have noticed birds will spend a longer time than normal bathing when a storm is coming. Afterward, they spend a significant time preening. Birds such as the quail, guinea fowl and mousebirds would take long dust baths, as if preparing their feathers for some sort of onslaught.

Many birds were affected by Hurricane Sandy, much like humans, especially those close to the devastated areas. Water birds, and seabirds especially, often show up out of their ocean environment and such was the case with this past week’s storm. A Leach’s Storm Petrel, a bird of the open ocean, was found in downtown Newburyport, where someone retrieved it from Interlocks Salon and Day Spa and a Dovekie, a member of the alcid family of birds, which includes puffins, was found trapped in a cellar!

Because birds are so attuned to shifts in barometric pressure, they can often sense ahead of time when a storm is brewing. Read here how birds stay safe during hurricanes. 

But there’s little question that avian mortality increases during a hurricane, whether due to starvation, exhaustion, habitat destruction, or exposure to pounding rains. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo killed half of the wild parrots in Puerto Rico; a year earlier, Hurricane Gilbert decimated the population of Mexico’s Cozumel thrasher.

But it's important to remember that the long-term effects of hurricanes on birds aren't necessarily negative. Every disturbance event is bad for some species but good for others. For instance, hurricanes create gaps in forests, creating habitat for species that require a brushy understory. Birds blown off course occasionally establish entirely new populations; such events may be responsible for much, if not most, colonization of remote islands by birds. Furthermore, hurricanes have been around for a long time and are part of the system in which birds evolved. It is only when they have impacts on species already pushed to the brink by humans, or if hurricane activity is increased by global climate change, that there is cause for concern.

NASA Goddard Photo Video

My thoughts are with all the victims of this terrible super-storm...



  1. Thanks Maree for all the interesting info above. John Muir once said: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

    1. And thankfully nature always does heal again Elizabeth. thanks for stopping by.

  2. Makes you wonder how wildlife survives such terrifying events in nature. There have been reports here recently of hundreds of migrating birds perishing on their journey from the European mainland to the UK when they met high winds and hail storms over the North Sea.

    1. I know the human loss is absolutely terrible John, but what the animals suffer is equally as bad. Just a couple of weeks ago a totally out-of-place bird was spotted on our West Coast, having birders scurrying for a sighting, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was also a Sandy victim, having been blown badly off course. Just wondering if it knows how to get back to where it was going...



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