Tip Sheets

Displaced seabirds, songbird mass migration expected in Hurricane Michael’s wake

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

Hurricane Michael is gaining strength over the Gulf of Mexico and threatening Florida’s coast with storm surge, rains and wind. Florida residents are bracing for the impact of the storm on land and, in the skies, migrating birds also face disruption from Michael.

Andrew Farnsworth

Research Associate

Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, studies bird migrations and works to advance technologies for studying bird movements. Farnsworth recently co-authored an op-ed in The New York Times about the effects of city lights on migrating birds. He says hurricanes like Michael can capture seabirds and transport them inland and that songbirds will shelter in place, emerging for a mass migration after the storm passes.

Farnsworth says:

Although we have much to learn about how birds and hurricanes interact, we see two primary patterns: storms capture, or ‘entrain,’ birds in their circulations and transport them far from their points of origin; and birds moving near these storms shelter in place until favorable weather arrives. The former is especially true for seabirds, frequently appearing far inland from their ocean haunts in the wake of storms; the latter is true for many songbirds traveling over land, migrating en masse when favorable post-storm conditions facilitate such movements.

“Most migrating birds in and near the path of Hurricane Michael, a storm that intensified to a major hurricane very rapidly, will shelter in place. And when favorable weather conditions typical of such a storm’s passage arrive, including clear skies and winds blowing from the north and west, mass movements of these birds will be apparent, especially on radar, across the Southeastern U.S. Note that where and when the storm passes, seabirds are likely to appear far from the ocean in inland bodies of water like reservoirs and rivers. Please visit birdcast.info for live updates, forecast and analysis.”

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