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Thousands of birds got trapped in Hurricane Hermine’s eye. Really.
Hurricane Hermine transported potentially thousands of birds from the Gulf of Mexico into the Southeast. We know this because the National Weather Service’s radar clearly shows signatures trapped inside the rain-free eye that we know represent winged creatures.
Hopefully they all feathered the storm….
I’ll be here all week.
But seriously — the same thing happened in Hurricane Arthur in 2014 on the East Coast. And birds get caught in a hurricane exactly how you’d expect them to, says Audubon field editor Kenn Kaufman:
The birds get into the end of the hurricane’s spiral and they move toward the eye of the hurricane. They may not necessarily do that in any organized way; more likely they’re out there in all this wild wind and when they chance into the calm of the eye they may make an effort to stay there and travel with it rather than fighting the winds again.
When the storm reaches land, some of them may start fighting the winds. Others may go with it and travel with the eye until the hurricane dissipates. The majority of seabirds, if they are not too weakened from having flown for so long without food, will probably find their way back to shore quickly. They have great powers of navigation.
Of course this means that new and potentially rare species will be transported from the tropics to the mid-latitudes, which excites bird watchers. As I’m sure you know, birding is a serious hobby.
“Birders often view these opportunities as a birding bonanza,” says the Alabama Wildbird Conservation Association, “they certainly will add remarkable entries to a life, state, or local list.”
Ahead of Hurricane Sandy, eBird blogged abut the Caribbean birds to watch for that might be picked up and carried to the Northeast. “In general, the areas north and east of the storm’s center are most productive for rarities,” the site recommended, “but rare birds can appear anywhere in the storm’s path that gets strong wind and rain.”
Hurricanes aren’t that great for the actual birds, though. Avian mortality increases markedly during storms — sometimes to the point of wiping out an entire locality of species, writes eNature.com:
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 killed half of the wild Puerto Rican Parrots existing at that time. The Cozumel Thrasher, found only on Mexico’s Isla Cozumel, was pushed to the edge of extinction by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Hurricane Iniki may have wiped out the last survivors of as many as three bird species when it hit Hawaii in 1992.