- Education and Science
WEATHER - Nature's Forecasters - Animals and Birds
How Animals and Birds can predict the Weather ...
Since the beginning of human times we have looked to the weather on a daily basis. Weather has played a major role in the way we live our lives, the type of work we do, what we wear, what we eat and the types of homes we live in.
For as long as humans have existed, people have tried to predict and forecast the weather. In early times it was viewed as an essential factor in existence, because knowing what the weeks and days ahead had in store enabled people to plant their crops, harvest, move location and the like. Forewarned is forearmed.
Regular observations of the Sun, Moon and stars, and noting animal, bird and insect behaviour were the only facts which people were able to draw upon.
In 1608 Galileo discovered sunspots, and he believed that they may be a factor in weather changes. At the time he was ignored, but centuries later it has been proven that the weather is indeed produced by sunspots.
Today meteorologists use computers linked to networks of satellites and weather stations around the world, so a lot of the guesswork is taken out of weather forecasting. However, even with the modern technology of today, there are so many variables that 100% accuracy in weather forecasting is still difficult.
The weather is influenced by factors such as solar activity, globe rotation, warming of the land masses and oceans, and the orbits of the Sun, Moon and planets.
As humans, we consider ourselves to be the most intelligent species on the planet - however, through the refining of our natural behaviours and through the process of our education and ‘advancements’ we have actually lost many (or most) of our basic instincts.
Animals, birds, insects and plant life have a far greater ability to sense and interpret weather changes and signs than humans, and this is linked to their natural survival instincts.
Birds are closer to nature than humans and therefore more sensitive to invisible energies. Their physical actions express approaching prevailing energy – such as earthquakes – before even the most psychic human is aware of it.
If a bird or flock of birds acts strangely, you may be able to deduce that they ‘know’ something that you do not about changes in the weather or an impeding natural event or disaster.
Animals and birds react to signs in many different ways and their irregular behaviour and reactions can predict future significant changes in the weather. Farmers and those who live and work closely with the land are often gifted in reading animal patterns, and abide by their messages.
Science is yet to determine exactly how animals know what’s to come. Is it a rise or fall in atmospheric pressure; a reaction to the electromagnetic forces generated by sunspots; or even changes in the levels of humidity? Or, is it a combination of these factors, or something entirely different altogether? Whatever the triggers may be, they have an effect on the natural world around us.
It is believed that every species of animal, insect and plant life has the ability to sense weather changes. In order to achieve a correct gauge, it is important to first become familiar with ‘normal’ growth and activity. Animals, plants and insects should be observed over a period of time in order to note new growth, flowering times, breeding seasons and any other normal seasonal changes.
Understanding cloud movements and types, and the effect of wind changes also helps with short term weather forecasting.
The behaviour of animal and plant life can vary depending upon the region in which they live, which is why it is important to know what is ‘normal’ behaviour in any particular region prior to attempting to read any signs as weather indicators. A reliable sign is one part of Australia may not be so in another, but can be used as a guide. For example, Australia has many different climatic conditions including alpine, arid, coastal, continental, temperate and tropical.
Scientists have conducted research on several species of birds, and confirm that they are able to foretell the weather - although it is yet to be established to exactly what degree.
Black Cockatoos will fly down from hills and mountains and will fly towards coastal areas (particularly in the early morning) when heavy rain and storms are imminent.
An explanation put forth is that variations in atmospheric pressure, changes plant behaviour. (ie the opening of seed cases of certain trees and the softening of bark texture)
It is assumed that the cockatoos anticipate a ready supply of food, which draws them to the coastal areas.
When grooming, cats usually lick their paws and wipe them across their eyes and parts of the face, but generally, they do not go behind the ears.
When a cat directs its paw over the back and tips of the ears, then rain can be expected. The cat’s ears are extremely sensitive to atmospheric pressures and changes.
Cats are also known to behave erratically prior to a sudden cold and/or wet change.
If a prolonged drought (longer than 12 months) or extremely dry weather is anticipated, there is generally an obvious drop in the fertility rate, with a lower number of offspring being born.
If adult cattle become active and overly frisky, it is an indication that a weather change is on the way, generally bringing rain.
Prior to heavy and stormy weather, cattle will try to rub their ears with their hind hooves, and whack their sides heavily with their tails. An explanation for the itchy ears is that cattle’s ears and hide become sensitive to sudden atmospheric pressure changes. Another is that prior to wet weather coming flies become more annoying and bit more frequently.
Prior to the onset of an extra heavy ‘wet season’ in the far north of Australia, nests of crocodiles can be found on higher than usual ground.
Currawongs (also known as the Bush Magpie) are annual altitudinal migratory birds who breed in the high forests then migrate to open lowland country during winter.
Apart from their annual movement from the high country to the lowlands, Currawongs will make the same moves prior to we weather.
Dogs usually sleep on their sides or belly down with their heads resting on their paws. If a dog is (unusually) sleeping on its back it may indicate a distinct change in weather.
Donkeys sway and nod their heads prior to the onset of heavy rain.
DRAGON LIZARDS (Bearded Dragon)
In many regions of Australia the Bearded Dragon may be seen walking along with their heads and tails raised when decent rain is coming.
Emus can lay a clutch of up to 20 eggs, but usually it is between 12 and 12. Should there be only a very few chicks hatched (1 or 2) , it indicates that a long dry spell is to come.
Both saltwater and fresh fish have been known to change their behaviour prior to weather changes. An explanation put forth is that shallow dwelling species such as plankton can sense atmospheric pressure and temperature changes, and change their behaviour. This may then trigger a reaction along the food chain.
Many species of fish will ‘bite’ prior to an intense change in the weather. Quite often fish will swim nearer to the surface and will take bait quickly before rains come.
Several species of freshwater fish that frequent the upper reaches of rivers, streams and creeks are often caught near the mouths of rivers and creeks before flooding rains.
In North Queensland, some fish species move from the big rivers to quiet pools in creeks when water levels are at their lowest and the ‘wet season’ rains are due.
When frogs call during a dry spell it indicates that rain may fall within 24 to 48 hours, although it is usually within a much shorter time frame.
Burrowing frogs can be heard calling from underground when heavy rain is on the way.
Guinea fowl look for nesting sites prior to a wet spell.
HERBIVOROUS ANIMALS (Domestic and Native)
Herbivores are known to be less productive, and often fail to conceive at all if there is a long dry spell to come.
Animals in the wild and those who are kept outside (without rugs, coats and housing eg. ) will cover themselves with a thicker than usual coat, indicating that a particularly cold winter is on the way.
When tufts of undercoat can be pulled or rubbed off the coat without any effort, it indicates that warm weather is on the way.
Horses generally spend the majority of their time standing, even whilst sleeping and resting. However, horses will rest laying on their sides, particularly around the middle of the day, prior to the onset of heavy weather.
Horses displaying nervousness or are acting unusually high-spirited, it often indicates a strong change in the weather.
KANGAROOS and WALLABIES
A very dry period is to be expected if there are no young joeys in the mob or in the pouches of the females. Kangaroos and Wallabies do not conceive if there is a drought on the way.
Kookaburras call and mark their territories in the early mornings and late evenings. Should they call during the middle of the day, wet weather is to be expected.
If it is raining heavily and kookaburras are calling all day, it indicates that the weather will soon clear.
In the drier areas of Australia, Kookaburras tend to stay in close to homesteads when a long dry spell is anticipated.
All livestock generally become uneasy, nervous and fidgety prior to storms.
NATIVE BURROWING ANIMALS
Animals that burrow near water may be seen relocating and building new nests at higher levels if extensive flooding is on the way.
Parrots, such as the King parrot, come in and stay around an area when fruits such as peaches, nectarines and apricots become ripe. The male will sit in a tree where he has the best vantage point, and will call in the flock when the coast is clear.
Peacocks have many different calls for different things such as a territorial call, for food, of fear or fright etc. Those who have observed peacock behaviour though, tell of yet another distinct call prior to the onset of rain.
Free range pigs out in paddocks will be seen carrying straw and grass into their sties or shelters prior to adverse weather.
PLOVERS and LAPWINGS
If plovers begin quickly establishing a nesting site, rain usually follows within 3 to 4 weeks. Early nesting indicates early rain storms and late nesting means late rain storms are to be expected.
It is assumed that the rain brings forth an ample supply of insects, grubs and worms, so the birds breed at this time knowing there will be ample food available for the chicks.
Roosters crow at daybreak and sometimes the light of the Moon triggers roosters to crow also.
During long periods of wet weather a change can be expected when the rooster crows during the day.
Sea birds, particularly seagulls, head inland to shelter away from the coast immediately prior to the onset of rough weather. They will stay inland for the duration of the inclement weather.
Red-bellied Black snakes (common to most of eastern Australia) prefer to live close to water sources. Prior to flooding, black snakes move to higher ground.
An increase in snake sightings in general may also indicate oncoming rain.
TORTOISES (Fresh water Turtles)
Turtles and tortoises spend their lives in slow moving rivers, streams and creeks. They lay their eggs in pits dug close to the water. If turtles are found some distance from the water and their nests are on higher ground, then substantial rain and possible flooding is to be expected.
TURKEYS (Scrub and Brush Turkeys)
Turkeys scratch together vegetation litter, sand and soil and piled them together to from large mounds in which they lay their eggs to incubate.
When a particularly heavy wet season is to come, turkeys will construct bigger and higher nests than usual.
Water birds who frequent inland lakes, dams and rivers are seen circling and soaring prior to the onset of bad weather.
The nests of wild ducks on low ground and close to water level most likely indicates that there will be no heavy rain for several weeks or possibly months.
On the flipside, wild duck’s nests at higher than usual levels generally indicates the onset of prolonged, heaving rain.
During migration and nomadic dispersal flight, wild geese will fly high if weather is to be fine, and low if bad weather likely.
YABBIES (Freshwater Crayfish)
Semi-aquatic yabbies have their burrows visible in the water along creek and dam banks and in boggy ground.
Immediately before and after rain, yabbies can be seen cleaning out their burrows. Seeing yabbies cleaning out their burrows during a dry spell will give a good indication that rain is on the way.
Although not in the category of ‘weather forecasting’, animals, birds and insects are able to predict an imminent earthquake. A few minutes prior to the earthquake, everything becomes completely still - no movement and no sound. Birds stop singing and chirping and flying around. Insects cease making noise and moving about, and there is total silence and stillness. Seconds before the earthquake dogs will start howling and other animals become agitated. After the earthquake has passed, the silence is repeated for a couple of minutes.
Animals and birds have also been known to leave an area or region up to 48 hours prior to a major earthquake, not returning until well after the event.
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