The lightest drizzle can change our minds about heading outside to do some bird watching. After all, wet, cold, and foggy weather conditions don’t seem all that inviting, do they? Well, we urge you to reconsider. Is bird watching in the rain worth it?
The short answer is yes! What many of us fail to realize is that bird watching in the rain is a very unique experience in the sense that it allows us to see birds huddled together to fight the weather. In addition, it allows us to watch birds channeling their inner flamingoes by perching on a single leg.
These are just some of the sights you’re likely to see when bird watching in the rain. There are many other spectacular sights to look forward to. Continue reading to learn more.
Why Is Bird Watching in the Rain Worth It?
For most of us, bird watching is about observing birds in their natural habitat. There’s a joy to watching them catch a wiggling worm or do the mating dance.
When it rains, new enticing aspects of bird behavior come to light as they try to overcome the weather. Let’s go over some of these aspects.
Bathing for birds is a crucial part of grooming. You’ll find that the ritual can be very intriguing. Birds either bathe by jumping and splashing in little puddles of water, or they revel in the rain with open wings, literally. They raise up their wings to make sure that water reaches all their feathers.
Why do birds bathe? To keep their feathers clean and shiny. Bathing also helps enhance their flying abilities.
Author Note: Birds are known to sense storms days in advance, as they can feel the drop in air pressure. Without dense air, birds don’t get the aerodynamic lift they need to fly effortlessly.
With that in mind, survival instincts kick in and stimulate the urge to stash and binge on food for what’s ahead.
As the rain starts, they steel through it by eating more than they usually do. The extra fat and energy help give them the warmth they need during this inactive period.
Singing in Celebration
The rain can be a tough time for birds, particularly if there are heavy showers that last a long time.
For the majority of the rain’s duration, birds refrain from singing. Once worms and insects begin to reemerge to dry themselves out, birds start singing in celebration.
Birds do this to let each other know where the food is. This signals the end of a storm and a melodic celebration for the shining sun.
Fallout is an event that happens when a large number of migrating birds find themselves stuck in a storm. They no longer have the energy to continue, and their vision isn’t clear because of the fog and rain. So, they opt for a little rest.
They all land together, as a cluster, making for a phenomenal sight. This is considerably rare to see, making it one of every birder’s dream sights.
You won’t only see a huge number of birds, but you’ll also find tens or even hundreds of different species all at once.
When you get to see a fallout, make sure you don’t approach the birds. You don’t want to scare them away and force them to take flight without rest. On the other hand, make sure you take a few shots of this memorable view.
If you wish to see a fallout, look for the days that are preceded by calm weather but take a sudden turn. This abrupt change is what will drive birds to make a pause on their trip.
Also, follow BirdCast to put you on the right track when it comes to birds’ migration.
Waterfowls vs Landbirds During the Rain
While land birds cower from the rain, waterbirds enjoy every second of it. They get excited by the new waters and by the fact that they’re able to find their worms easier in the mud.
Author Note: Also, waterbirds get excited when it rains because they’re able to find an abundance of water to drink from and bathe in away from predators. This excitement can bring joy to birders watching from afar.
Nonetheless, if the rain is too heavy and the wind too strong, waterbirds may be driven away. As for land birds, it mostly depends on the size of the bird and how bad the rain is.
Small birds will be perched, trying to conserve their energy and sit the rain out. This makes it easier for bird watchers to detect them and determine their species.
Some birds even tuck their beaks into their back feathers. They nuzzle their heads to decrease muscle strain on their neck as they rest, but most importantly to keep themselves warm.
Bigger ones might not mind the extra effort and go hunt for food.
If the rain is heavy, you’ll find all birds, no matter their size, looking for shelter away from the rain. They seek dense trees and nestle near the trunks.
How Are Birds Adapted to the Rain?
Now that we covered how birds react to rain, you may be wondering about how they’re prepared to weather through rainy days. Let’s find out.
Having waterproof feathers seems more like a superpower if you think about it, so let me explain.
Birds have a preen gland at the base of their tail that lets out waterproof oil. They pick up this kind of wax by their beaks then smear it all over their feathers for a protective layer.
Waterbirds have that, too. Further, they even denser feathers than land birds to prevent water from seeping into their bodies since they’re likely to be out and about as it’s raining.
Puffed Out Chests
Birds are known to puff out their chests to attract female mates or to assert their dominance in a fight. Nevertheless, they also do it for warmth. They fluff up their feathers trapping hot air beneath their feathers. This all acts to insulate the bird against the harsh wind.
Birds like Snowy Owls, Golden Eagles, and Rough-Legged hawks have feathered-legs that keep them extra warm. Others who aren’t blessed with this advantage resort to tucking one leg up their bodies to warm it up then switch it with the other leg and so on.
They can also restrict blood flow to their legs and feet in order to reduce heat loss. This, in addition to having their arteries and veins close together, makes for a countercurrent heat exchange system where heat travels from the warm arteries to the cold veins in a way that conserves body heat.
How to Prepare for Birdwatching in the Rain?
Going out in storms can be risky, but indeed fulfilling. To have a safe and exciting experience, here’s how to prepare:
First, you need to be dressed right for the occasion. This means cozying up in many layers, including a waterproof jacket.
Also, wear rubber boots to shield your feet and a baseball cap to shield your face. And don’t forget to bring along your gloves, umbrella, and an insect bite soothing cream.
Second, you want to bring the right gear. You’ll need binoculars or spotting scopes, preferably waterproof ones. You’ll need a camera too, make sure you have a rain cover for it though.
Lastly, make sure you don’t set incredibly high expectations to avoid disappointments. The expedition can turn out to be amazing or it could turn out to be star-crossed.
Can Birds Die From the Rain?
Rain isn’t a fun time for birds. In fact, studies have proven that rain increases the stress hormone for birds. Cold weather drives them to take extra measures in hopes of surviving through it. Some birds will go as far as to induce controlled hypothermia or even temporary hibernation.
Some species have body temperature drops of about 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Others have body temperature drops much lower to match the outside temperature.
Author Note: With that being said, birds do die because of the rain and extreme weather. Further, they may starve since their prey will most likely be inactive, or they may be preyed on when they’re in a state of hypothermia.
Bird Watching After the Rain
Many people believe that once the storm has passed comes a better time for birdwatching. We sure appreciate that time when birds take their first flight after a long-dormant stage. This period is usually chaotic and filled with urgency.
Birds emerge in need of food and they spread around with vehement activity to make up for the time lost. That could be mesmerizing to watch. However, we’ll leave you to decide which timing you like better.
As hard as rain could be for birds, it surely brings about mesmerizing aspects of bird behavior. From hibernation to puffing out their chests against the hard cold, birds’ will to survive prevails. We hope you enjoyed this article on is bird watching in the rain worth it.
If you plan to seek out birds in the rain, be sure to bring along your equipment and layer up your clothes. If you’re lucky enough, you might just witness a fallout!
Make sure to stick around when the clouds clear, as you don’t want to miss out on the happy chirping and the assembly of colors flying around.
Fly high friends!