You’re in the middle of the wetlands on an Everglades air boat ride, admiring all the Purple Gallinules, Great Blue Herons, Osprey, and, my favorite, Roseate Spoonbills, when you hear a loud, ear-splitting noise. That boom is the result of the expansion of the clouds produced by the lightning’s heat, and when you look to where the startling sound came from, a huge system of dark, ominous clouds are rolling in. As your air boat is flying towards shelter, you look back and think, what will happen to that poor Spoonbill?
It’s Florida’s wet season and with the immense amount of rain we’ve been experiencing, it makes you wonder, how do birds survive these severe conditions--think about it, many of them weigh less than 5lbs, and last week’s storm tore the tree in your front yard out by the roots. In actuality, birds are the most efficient extreme-weather-management masters. Even in hurricane-force winds, birds can power through, correcting course when gale-force winds blow them off target and even using winds as a slingshot to propel them forward.
From a biological standpoint, this all makes perfect sense--just look at migration. Migration is a bird’s natural response to climate change. Since they’re familiar with flying though dangerous weather, they have strategies to deal with it. Birds can detect air pressure changes--like a built in barometric pressure gauge--which alert the bird to leave the area, instruct shorebirds to move inland for shelter, drive cavity nesters to find a tree or birdhouse, or urge others to find a sturdy branch or a dense bush for protection. Smaller passerine kin (passerine means perching) have a perching reflex when faced with extreme weather. These unique creatures simply bend their legs, causing the tendons in their lower legs to automatically flex, locking the branch between the birds feet. It’s said that the only way the bird can be blown away is if the branch goes with it.
Even if one of the Everglades’ birds does get blown off course and pushed into areas unknown, it’ll be perfectly fine and capable of finding its way home when the storm clears. Birds have incredible situational awareness and navigational abilities; therefore, it’ll take more than a hefty breeze and few-hundred-miles-off-course push to deter them.
Severe storms and hurricanes can actually benefit the well-adapted Everglades environment. While they may ruin your Everglades air boat ride, they can actually help to flush sediment out of the Florida Bay, destroy exotic tree life, and give native Everglades plant species a chance to grow faster by thinning out the tree canopy, allowing more sunlight to come through.
The next time a severe storm hits, don’t worry about the birds. Birds are nature’s thrill seekers, itching to dive headfirst into another storm system. For additional information on the Everglades and their native feather-bearing inhabitants, visit Wild Florida’s website today. Wild Florida is the perfect destination of an education and unforgettable Everglades air boat ride.
Share this post if you’ve ever wondered what birds do during a severe storm. Also, let us know what your favorite Everglades bird is and we’ll tell you what their species’ response is to severe weather.