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Flying Into Typhoons Helps Some Seabirds Survive The Storm

Because flying into typhoons helps some seabirds survive the storm, some seabirds do not simply make it through the storm; they actually feel it. According to a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 11, streaked shearwaters that nest on islands off the coast of Japan sometimes make their way directly toward oncoming typhoons, where they remain in the vicinity of the eye of the storm for extended periods of time.

Alexander McCaslin
Oct 18, 202223 Shares1066 Views
Because flying into typhoons helps some seabirds survive the storm, some seabirds do not simply make it through the storm; they actually feel it.
According to a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 11, streaked shearwaters that nest on islands off the coast of Japan sometimes make their way directly toward oncoming typhoons, where they remain in the vicinity of the eye of the storm for extended periods of time. It's possible that this peculiar habit, which hasn't been observed in any other species of birds, assists streaking shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) in weathering violent storms.
Birds and other animals that live in regions that are prone to hurricanes and typhoons have developed coping mechanisms to survive the onslaught of these potentially lethal storms. In recent years, a few studies that utilized GPS trackers indicated that certain ocean-dwelling birds, such as the frigatebird (Fregata minor), will take huge detours to avoid cyclones.
According to Emily Shepard, a behavior ecologist at Swansea University in Wales, this is a tactic that is sensible for birds who spend the most of their time at sea, where "there is simply nowhere to hide," as she put it. She and her colleagues utilized 11 years' worth of tracking data from GPS locators that were placed to the wings of 75 birds that nested on Awashima Island in Japan. This allowed them to determine whether or not shearwaters also avoid storms.
A seabird hovering in the air above the sea with three others sitting on the sea
A seabird hovering in the air above the sea with three others sitting on the sea
The researchers found that shearwaters that were stuck out in the open ocean when a storm swept in would ride tailwinds around the borders of the storm. This was determined by integrating this information with data on the wind speeds that were experienced during typhoons. On the other hand, some birds, when they found themselves trapped between the land and the eye of a powerful hurricane, would occasionally deviate from their typical flight paths in order to make their way toward the center of the storm.
Thirteen of the seventy-five shearwaters that were being watched came within 60 kilometers of the eye, also known as the "eye socket," where the winds were the greatest, and stayed there for up to eight hours as the cyclone moved northward. Shepard explains that it was one of those times when they couldn't believe what they were seeing. "It was one of those moments," We had a few hypotheses about how they may act, but this particular scenario was not one of them.
Shearwaters were more likely to head into the eye of the storm during more intense storms, where gusts might reach up to 48 miles per hour (75 kilometers per hour). According to Shepard, this indicates that the birds may be following the eye in order to prevent themselves from being driven inland, where they would run the risk of colliding with the ground or being struck by flying debris.

Conclusion

Ornithologist Andrew Farnsworth of Cornell University, who was not involved in the study, says that flying with the winds could be a common tactic for conserving energy during cyclones, despite the fact that this behavior has never been observed in any bird species before.
He says that:
It could appear to go against common sense, however, when viewed from the point of view of avian behavior, it makes a great deal of sense.- Andrew Farnsworth, Ornithologist of Cornell University
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