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Birds And The Weather
December 11, 2017

What a busy week we just finished.

Besides a couple of doctor visits, we were busy.

We enjoyed so much taking our little grand daughter to see the Christmas trees from around the world at Fredrick Meijer Gardens.

My physical was as good as a physical can be (I suppose).

The numbers were good, but my red blood count was down a bit
(observing with another lab work in order).

My girls are doing well, as are the fur babies.

Light Thunderstorms the first part of last week.

Snow and a white blanket for many of us by the weekend.

Even many of you in the deep south were blessed with a bit of white.

I understand that an inch of snow can cause gridlock and shut down governments (chuckle, chuckle).

My apologies, but anyone that lives up north knows the score.

Be careful, and enjoy nature.

It looks like winter has come and is here to stay for a while.

That's fine with me, the blanket of snow brightens up cloudy days.

Snow covers up the brown and barren landscape.

Snow brings me bird.

Lots of birds that were missing the past several weeks.

This week's topic is 'Barometric Pressure in Birds'.


I love Birds.

I can spend hours being entertained and learn from birds.

You Too?

Here is a question.

Can birds predict the weather?

Yes they can, sort of.

For years you and I have noticed that birds feed intensely as air pressure falls.

They apparently have an inborn barometer that is extraordinarily sensitive.

This is a handy adaptation for all birds, even non-migrants, because storms usually are associated with falling pressure, and birds have a hard time getting food during a storm.

The sooner they can predict a storm before it hits, the more time they have to feed or flee.

For centuries, people would watch the birds and furry animals as weather indicators.

Probably with more accuracy then science predicts then weather today :-)

Wouldn't you know it, birds do have a 'Built-in Barometer'.

Birds are very aware of their environments.

Their activities are dictated by the natural rhythms of light and dark, heat and cold, and wet or dry.

Their extremely sensitive bodies can even feel the smallest changes in air pressure to help them manage the weather, and changing seasons.

Did you know:

Migrating birds are excellent weather forecasters. Because they are sensitive to air pressure they time their migratory flights to favorable weather conditions.

Barometric pressure is the pressure exerted by the atmosphere and measured using a "barometer."

Changes in pressure are more important than exact readings - a downward trend is a general predictor of stormy weather and an upward trend suggests fair weather.

The normal, average sea-level pressure is about 29.92 inches, which means the barometer's needle will rest near 30.

The lower or faster the air pressure drops, the more severe the storm can be.

Scientists also have known for a long time that migrating birds fly at different altitudes than non-migrating birds, and maintain this altitude even on moon-less nights when they can't see the ground at all.

How do they maintain a particular altitude?

Many scientists suspect that this is also due to their ability to "feel" air pressure.

Now this is something I didn't know.

Recognizing, or feeling air pressure is also handy because birds often migrate along frontal systems, and changing air pressure is one of the first signs that a front is coming.

Just as low pressure indicates storms, high pressure systems typically have clear skies. Thus, sensing if air pressure is rising or falling would enable a bird to anticipate changes in weather.

How do birds judge air pressure?

One guess is that the birds detect air pressure somehow though the huge air sacs that connect to their lungs and fill much of the space inside their bodies.

The other is, that birds may be able to detect it through their inner ear.

You and I detect large changes in air pressure in our own inner ear when we make a fast change in altitude--that's when our ears "pop."

Along comes the discovery of the Paratympanic organ (PTO), a mechanoreceptive sense organ in the middle ear of birds.

The PTO is located in the medial wall of the tympanic cavity, above the opening of the pharyngotympanic (Eustachian) tube.

(Don't ask me to pronounce these words.)

All the action that goes on is ultra sensitive in birds.

Our ears pop, we swallow to adjust ear pressure, (Eustachian tube from ear to throat).

Normally, these pressures fluctuate slightly.

Animals are highly tuned in to any changes beyond those natural fluctuations, which can signal big changes in the weather.

These variations can trigger an animal's survival mechanism.

The animals' instinctive reaction is to seek shelter in the face of potentially violent weather.

For example, abnormal conditions like hurricanes cause large decreases in air pressure and water pressure (at least in the more shallow depths).

Researchers observed this type of behavior among groups of fish, during hurricanes.

After the barometric pressure dropped just a few millibars -- an occurrence that causes a similar change in hydrostatic pressure (water pressure).

Fish and mammals swam to deeper waters, where there was more protection from the storm.

Animals exposed and accustomed to certain patterns can quickly sense these changes.

Birds and bees also appear to sense this drop in barometric pressure and will instinctively seek the cover of their nests or hives.

Feed or Flee.

When birds have a nest and babies, instinct often tells them to stay.

Millions of birds and other wild animals are killed each year in severe weather.

Sometimes, shore birds are found hundreds of miles inland.

Often before the hurricane reaches land.

Birds also use their ability to sense air pressure to determine when it's safe to migrate.

Next time your local meteorologists are talking about a storm system a few days in advance, observe the bird activity or lack of around your yard or neighborhood.

God's mysteries amaze me.

They have always been there.

His laws never change.

We are allowed to find (discover), when His time is right.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

James Allen

You become what you think about most of the time.

Wise words from King Solomon

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he".

Proverbs 23:7

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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