How do birds stay safe during a hurricane? They fly right into the middle of it.
Masses of birds can fly for miles within the eye of a hurricane, surrounded on all sides by powerful wind and thunderstorms yet sheltered from them within the middle of the storm.
Flocks of birds have been showing up in radar images of Hurricane Irma’s eye, as the birds move with the storm up the west coast of Florida.
“The birds get into the end of the hurricane’s spiral and they move toward the eye of the hurricane,” birding expert Kenn Kaufman said in a 2011 interview with Audubon.
“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.”
According to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, these birds may have flown for hundreds of miles, in search of calmer weather.
The flocks of birds will likely stay within Irma’s eye until the Category 2 hurricane dissipates and they can safely land in a brand new area.
“When the storm reaches land, some of them may start fighting the winds,” Kaufman said.
“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.”
Irma is now making its way up Florida’s west coast, bringing dangerous storm surge flooding and high winds to Naples and other cities along the Gulf of Mexico.