Birds and Weather

Birds and Weather

scott-macdougall-shackletonProfessor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton, Director of Advanced Facility for Avian Research at UWO, gave a presentation on birds and how they respond to changes in weather and daylight, and how they cope with the winter.


Some bird behavior is guided and influenced by the length of daylight. This is one of the factors that influences migration. Birds migrate based partially on day length. Hours of daylight let them know it is time to start their spring and fall migrations. Even caged birds display migratory restlessness by fluttering their wings and moving back and forth inside their cages during migration time for their species.

Bbird-1280685_1280irds breed by time of year. Many seed eating birds raise their young on insects. The challenge facing these birds is one of food sources. Insects will breed earlier based on temperature, but for the most part, birds do not change their breeding patterns based on temperature. As some springs are getting warmer earlier, the insects are hatching earlier. Unfortunately, birds are not generally changing their breeding strategies and they produce young when their food sources are not abundant. Birds that are able to adjust their breeding times will be more successful.



Birds have been known to adjust their locations based on upcoming storms. New ways of tracking birds, and the smaller equipment available, allows researches to gather this information. Birds have been documented flying out of the path of intense storm activity and then returning to their original flight path after it settles. Birds also will relocate temporally from mountainsides to valleys when storms come. Have you noticed increase bird feeder activity before a severe storm? The birds know what is coming.

bird-278314_1280To cope with winter, birds, like chick-a-dees will hide seeds. You may have noticed chick-a-dees coming to your feeding, eating a seed and then taking other seeds. They take more than they can possibly eat at a time! They are hiding the seeds for bad weather and winter. When there are days that they are unable to obtain enough food, they will return to their stash and dine on the seeds that they had saved.


cat-1511023_1280During the post presentation questions, Professor MacDougall-Shackleton answered queries about threats to birds. Domestic cats are the greatest risk to bird populations. They kill more birds annually than any other one factor. They kill more birds than buildings and more than wind turbines. He also shared research that is indicating wind turbines are a greater risk to bats than birds and that birds are lost to turbines only because they are large structures that are similar to a large buildings.


Thanks to Professor MacDougall-Shackleton for a very interesting and informative presentation.

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