Pretty much all animals seek shelter when it rains.
The same goes for birds, who need to acclimate to the rain and wet season in general despite having waterproof feathers. They do so in their own distinct ways.
How Do Rains Pose a Threat to Birds?
You might think birds have little concern for rains, given that they’re always flying around.
They may look like they’re built to withstand the elements, but rains can prove to be an impediment to these winged creatures.
Hypothermia and Starvation
All birds run the risk of hypothermia and starvation during the rainy season. This two-pronged threat translates in different ways for different birds.
Smaller birds can have trouble retaining body heat. Persistent rains can hence cause them to shiver.
As discussed later on, rains can also prove detrimental to some raptors whose sustenance includes smaller animals such as mice, rabbits, and gophers.
Because their prey is in hiding during rains, starvation is a morbid reality for them.
Big Birds vs Smaller Birds
When it comes to protecting themselves from the rain, different birds exhibit different behavior.
Before we discuss various birds and how they adapt to the rainy season, one thing rings true across almost all species.
Bigger birds fare better against the effects of rain as opposed to their smaller, more frail counterparts.
Where Birds Take Refuge When it Rains
Now let’s go through some different types of birds and what they do in case of rain.
Resilience, thy name is a seabird.
Out of all the seabirds, the larger ones can easily bear oceanic and sea storms. Smaller seabirds, on the other hand, head towards land to seek shelter there.
Owing to their small size, they find it difficult to fly during a storm. They can even fall victim to it.
If seabirds, which are usually found far from dry land, are seen closer to the coastline, it can very well indicate an impending storm.
For pelicans and gulls, it is easy to direct themselves out of a storm. This behavior alerts other birds to an oncoming threat and is an indicator for them to follow suit.
Seabirds have preen glands, also known as oil glands, that produce oil.
This oil makes their feathers waterproof. If a seabird is found taking shelter during rains, it’s almost always due to the ferocity of the weather and not because of the downpour.
A little bit of light pitter-patter does not get in the way of most birds.
To reiterate what we mentioned earlier, this is because birds have waterproof feathers.
If you’ve ever held a bird and looked at it up close, the glossy coat is proof of this. The oil that their preen glands produce also keeps their feathers clean.
While it’s raining, land birds tend to fly to trees and bushes. You may have noticed birds even huddled together on your window sill. Moreover, they remain fairly still during rains.
This is a tactic to conserve as much energy as possible.
There is an interesting demarcation between birds and their behavior during light and heavy rains. If it’s the former, their feathers are fluffed up so they can stay warm.
Heavy rains, however, have them flatten their feathers. They do this to make sure that no water can seep through.
If rains show no signs of stopping anytime soon, birds can risk facing low energy levels.
At such a time, priorities shift. It becomes important for them to get sustenance, no matter what.
Birds’ energies deplete quite fast. This is why they need to keep eating.
Birds that rely on seeds can face a rather strange problem.
Birdseed can get wet during the rainy season, so even though there’s plenty of food to be had, wet birdseed is not exactly recommended.
When it’s raining, some birds often seek shelter by flying off to bird-feeders that have a shade or canopy attached.
Tip: Make sure to replace wet birdseed with a fresh, dry batch so that birds will have a safe haven during the rainy season.
Birds that come under this category have the worst fate during the rainy season.
Warblers and robins are examples of insectivores. These birds have a tough time finding food during rains because the weather renders their prey inactive.
Furthermore, torrential rains can very well sweep the insects they feed on along with muddy waters and rainy sludge.
Insectivores simply lack the ability to generate body heat.
It is not an entirely uncommon sight to see insectivores feeding off of nectar or scouting for insects trapped in mud. Some birds even die due to prolonged periods of starvation.
Owing to their tiny stature, these birds require sufficient energy to retain natural body heat at stable levels.
Sometimes during a downpour, insectivores can be seen hunting in a frenzy.
Aquatic birds are known to take great joy when it comes to rain. In a more practical sense, the rain makes their job of finding food (larvae, insects) much easier.
Like all birds, aquatic birds also boast a water-resistant coat. Because of this, there’s no real worry or threat presented to them as far as hypothermia is concerned.
Talking about swans and ducks, they are able to live on both land and water. One thing that sets them apart from non-aquatic birds is that they are not as susceptible to losing body heat.
That said, smaller birds and even ducklings are vulnerable during rains.
This is mostly because they are younglings, and their feathers lack the characteristic waterproof quality.
Songbirds are very small in size.
It can easily be inferred from our discussion up until this point that songbirds belong to the category of birds that will face dire consequences if they don’t stay sheltered during rain.
Some songbirds are known to find refuge under leaves and in bushes.
They have no other option other than to conserve what little energy they have. They do so by remaining stationary. This is their way of hibernating during prolonged showers.
Any bird that preys on other creatures is called a raptor.
Drizzling and light rains do little to come in the way of raptors in their pursuit of sustenance. During monsoon season and periods of heavy downpours, however, they face a bit of a challenge.
They, too, need to seek shelter during storms. Because of this, they are not able to forage for food and satisfy their hunger pangs.
Storms vs Showers
Storms and heavy downpours are a greater cause for concern, especially when talking about smaller birds. While this is true, tiny birds also have a hidden advantage during heavy rains.
This is the fact that they can take shelter inside the smallest and tightest of spaces.
By staying dry and protected, these birds can easily maintain their body heat.
While it’s raining, birds generally keep their body erect with the beak inched ever so slightly up towards the sky. This particular stance helps birds in two significant ways.
Firstly, it helps them conserve precious energy. Secondly, it lowers the chances of raindrops clinging to their body.
Referring to bigger birds, even though they are more resilient, inclement weather can sometimes even be dangerous for them.
Even if these birds continue to fly during storms, pouring rain can very well disrupt and distort their vision. This can lead to unfortunate and even deadly collisions with trees and high-rise buildings.
Showers and drizzling do not pose any serious threats to birds except to the smaller ones. Even then, light rain doesn’t last long and is not as incapacitating as a thunderous storm.
Birds’ immediate surroundings make a lot of difference when it comes to weathering downpours.
For instance, if a bird happens to be in an area replete with trees, it can easily find a temporary home inside tree holes, hedges, and branches shaded by a thick canopy of leaves. The options are, as they say, endless.
Of course, surroundings also play an integral role when it comes to gathering sustenance. Smaller birds especially need to keep their energy up. If they fail to do so, they can flatline.
If a bird is lucky enough to already be in such a place when thunder and lightning strike, there’s no need to worry. This is especially true if it has easy access to the kind of food it needs to survive.
All that remains to be done then is to wait in comfort for the storm to pass.
However, if only one of the two needs is met, a time will come when birds will have to brave the storm and go searching for food.
After all, the importance of keeping warm will wear out once hunger strikes.
Almost all birds, except aquatic birds, seek a means to escape from the rain.
Even though starvation and hypothermia are two threats that loom over birds during heavy rains, they too can be evaded if the refuge is found in time.
Other articles you may also like: