Songbirds: Climate Change and Migration Pattern


Songbirds travel thousands of miles each spring and fall, and sometimes reach their destination in a single overnight journey, but how does a sudden change of climate affect their migration patterns? The answer is, songbirds can detect storms before they are even on their way, and change direction out of the way of the oncoming storm.

In April, a massive thunderstorm unleashed a series of tornadoes in central and southern United States. However, during this storm, a peculiar event took place. Flocks of songbirds fled the area. Many songbirds had just finished a 1,500 mile migration to Tennessee when they suddenly flew south to Florida and Cuba. The storm was still between 250 and 560 miles away. Why would these tiny birds fly so far from their regular migration pattern, and how did they know that the storm was coming?

Songbirds have a very keen sense of hearing. Having a rather good sense of hearing allows these birds to hear infrasound, or very low frequency sounds. They can hear sounds as low as 0.05 hertz, while humans can’t hear any sounds that are below 20 hertz. Tornado-spewing storms produce low frequency sounds Rock_wrenbelow 20 hertz that humans can’t hear, but songbirds are able to detect it because they travel at the same frequency that songbirds can detect.

Being able to hear these low frequency sounds allows a songbird to make a sudden change in their migratory pattern. Songbirds change their course, and glide along with the currents of the wind. By flying along with the current, songbirds are able to conserve energy and calories. Even though these birds weigh a little more than three pennies and a little less than two nickels, they can fly in up to 20 or 30 mph winds heading the opposite direction that they are flying.

Songbirds are magnificent and interesting creatures. They are one of few birds who can detect incoming storms due to their low frequency hearing. However, they are one of the only birds who are able to glide in wind currents and also fly against them when they reach 20 to 30 mph speeds.

  • How are storms affecting these birds’ migration pattern?
  • Why do these birds change direction when a storm is nowhere near?
  • Is climate change affecting these birds?

5 thoughts on “Songbirds: Climate Change and Migration Pattern

  1. I found your blog very interesting, it is amazing that these birds can do this, one thing i found false is that you said humans can only hear down to hertz. this is false, says that humans can hear sounds much lower than 20 Hertz, it just need to be louder. other than that i really liked your blog

  2. I’ve heard of many different types of animals being able to detect when something bad is going to happen, but I never would have thought that one as small as a song bird would be able to do that. It’s really quite interesting how they can hear things that we can’t hear. If only we could, then we might be able to get out of areas where a devastating storm is coming to. Although people cant hear sounds below 20 hertz, studies have proved that birds can detect sounds with frequencies as low as .05 hertz according to . That’s really cool.

  3. The fact that songbirds can travel thousands of miles in just a single night baffles me. Their hearing and ability to sense a storm from over 500 miles away is just incredible. With all of these skills, and only weighing a little more than two nickles is really surprising. The fact that they are really little, and able to fly 20-30 mph is crazy. It’s interesting how they know where to travel knowing that a storm is coming, and how to adjust according to it. Here is a link to a website on further information on songbirds.

  4. I never knew that song birds hear at 0.05 hertz or that they can detect if a tornado is coming from 560 miles away. It’s interesting that they can fly from 20-30mph yet they only weigh a little less than two nickels. Scientists say that due to the changing climate egg laying dates for the birds have changed which causes many problems like for instance the main food source for the chicks is not available for the time that the songbirds are needing the food. As of now scientist can only hope that the birds will adapt soon and the population doesn’t get affected. Also scientists have found that the reasoning in the change is because of earlier and warmer springs.

  5. Song birds are crazy I never knew that humans cant hear anything lower than 20 hertz but song birds can still hear at 0.05 hertz. The fact that they can detect and on coming storm that’s like 560 miles away and be able to find a safe spot from where it might come is insane. Who knew that a bird that ways a little more than three pennies could ever do that and even travel up to 20-30mph is even crazier. In April a massive thunderstorm unleashed 84 tornados ripping apart homes and buildings taking 35 lives. The song birds had just finished 1,500 mile migration when they hit this place and realized they had to move. They flew all the way down between Flordia and Cuba. Its crazy how they knew the exact direction they needed to fly in and how far.

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