Light, springtime rain showers pose no threat to birds that visit our feeders. They continue their Gene Kelly impersonations as the rain rolls off their feathered backs. Those same feathers keep air trapped against their bodies, and it’s the air that keeps them warm.
But big storms – the ones that last for two or three days – are a different story.
And as with so many other questions about birds, what happens to them during heavy, long-lasting rain depends on the type of bird you’re talking about.
Adult birds are larger than their chicks so, they have larger reserves of energy. During heavy or prolonged rain, adult birds will stay still, hunker down, and conserve that energy. They do the same thing at night for the same reason… energy conservation.
For their young, the story is a bit different. Hypothermia can be a real threat.
Chicks, being smaller than their adult counterparts, have smaller energy reserves and lose body heat more quickly. They also need to eat more frequently to support their growth and to restock their reserves.
For mommy and daddy birds, finding food for their young can be tough in bad weather.
I wrote in an earlier post about rain and how it drives worms to the surface, making for gluttonous robins. Seed eating birds tend to be okay too.
But insect eaters find it more difficult. Just like at the airport, when the weather is bad, there isn’t much flying going on among winged bugs.
You can help by keeping your feeders and suet cages well stocked.
Suet is high in calories, so it provides a good energy source for otherwise hungry birds. Also make sure the seed in your feeder is dry.
Consider adding a weather guard above your feeder. Generally dome-shaped, weather guards are widely available and protect feeders from rain and snow. Some people, with variable success, use larger weather guards to deter squirrels.
And having extra nesting material available will also help by providing birds with what they need to reinforce and repair damaged nests.
Raptors like rain about as much as a cat likes a bath.
Hawks, eagles, owls, and other birds of prey have a tough time during drenching rains.
First, depending on their size, a raptor’s wings can take as much as an entire day to dry out. Before that, it’s too difficult to fly any normal distance to find food.
Second, even if they can fly normally, their prey – whether its smaller birds, rabbits, or squirrels – take shelter against storms in dense surroundings or burrows. They stay hidden.
If it rains too long, raptors can be faced with a serious lack of food and face a real crisis.
Waterfowl and Sea Birds
As you can probably figure out, ducks and other waterfowl can benefit from prolonged rain. Flooded areas become new territory to explore. Flood waters support more bug larvae, which is a great food source for quacking paddlers.
If you live by the sea, you may have noticed pelicans and gulls become scarce when a storm front approaches. These and similar species will fly out of the way of an oncoming storm.
Larger seabirds can often ride out a storm by staying at sea. Smaller ones tend to batten down the hatches by coming on shore and laying low.
Bibhukalyan Acharya from Pexels