Shelter From The Storm

Last night as Hurricane Sandy approached Pittsburgh I thought about the birds. Where will they hide from the storm?  I knew the answer but I wanted assurance.

Birds already know how to cope with bad weather.  Each species uses its own strategy to survive.

Birds that live on cliffs or buildings, like the pigeons above, shelter out of the wind and find the driest possible place to wait out the storm.  This doesn’t always keep them dry but it keeps them safe.

Birds that roost in cavities, such as woodpeckers, owls, house sparrows and starlings go indoors during bad weather.  Sometimes more than 10 bluebirds will huddle together inside a bluebird box, using their communal body heat to stay warm.


Robins, sparrows and cardinals roost in thickets and hunker down close to the ground when it’s windy.  If you have a brush pile, as Marcy Cunkelman does, the birds will hide there from bad weather and predators.  The Coopers hawk happens to know this, too.


Shorebirds and ocean birds fly inland, ducks find sheltered lakes or rivers.  Shannon Thompson found huge numbers of waterfowl at Greenlick Run Reservoir in Fayette Country yesterday afternoon as thousands of birds stopped there to wait out the storm.

Every species has a strategy.   I’m sure most of them made it through last night’s wind in Pittsburgh.  So did we.  The electricity is still on!

For more information (including stories of birds flying in the eye of the storm) see this excellent article from the National Wildlife Federation, written in response to Hurricane Irene, that explains what happens to wildlife under these circumstances.

(pigeon photo from Wikimedia Commons, click on it to see the original.  Bluebird and Coopers hawk photos by Marcy Cunkelman)


4 thoughts on “Shelter From The Storm

  1. I had made the assumptions that they hunkered down and hid or found places of shelter like the ones you’ve pointed out. I had a friend share a story with me though that pointed out two other cases. Sometimes birds will end up flying along within the eye of the storm finally landing hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

    And the story that really surprised me…a whimbrel didn’t really care and just flew right through Irene last year!

  2. Hope everyone is safe and dry from the winds and rains…at least 4+ inches of rain and more coming downand glad the winds died down…Took a quick walk around the yard and there are LOTS of downed branches to make the brushpile…usually start this about mid November when the leaves and grass are done mowing. Since we now have cover in the yard, it’s not as critical for us to have the brushpile, but it also helps shelter and keeps the deer from eating the mixed seed scattered on the ground…going to make a new feeder set up…the one we had when we moved in 11/09/01 lasted until this summer…it’s going to be on posts and up in the air more…for shelter from the snow and rain…The Coopers was here today above the sunflower feeder, looking for easy meal, but the birds hid from it. Siskins are here and hoping for those Evening and Pine Grosbeaks and Redpolls to show up…”lunch is ready.”

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