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Can Birds Help us Avoid Natural Disasters? | Hakai Magazine

September 9, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale, submitted for your delectation by Ellen Vahan]

Researchers think birds can hear hurricanes and tsunamis—a sense they’re hoping to tap into to develop a bird-based early warning system.

Can Birds Help us Avoid Natural Disasters?
Hakai Magazine | Jason Gregg | 1 Sep 2021 | also in Smithsonian Magazine | 4 minute read

Pacific Ocean Islands (Source: Australia National University)

From the article:

The Kivi Kuaka project is focusing on birds’ ability to hear infrasound, the low-frequency sound inaudible to humans ­that the researchers believe is the most likely signal birds would use to sense storms and tsunamis. Infrasound has myriad sources, from lightning strikes and jet engines to the songlike vocalizations of rhinoceroses. Even the Earth itself generates a continuous infrasonic hum. Though rarely measured, it is known that tsunamis generate infrasound, too, and that these sound waves travel faster than the tsunami wave, offering a potential window to detect a tsunami before it hits.

There is some evidence that birds dodge storms by listening to infrasound. In a 2014 study, scientists tracking golden-winged warblers in the central and southeastern United States recorded what’s known as an evacuation migration when the birds flew up to 1,500 kilometers to evade an outbreak of tornadoes that killed 35 people and caused more than US $1-billion in damage. The birds fled at least 24 hours before any foul weather hit, leaving the scientists to deduce they had heard the storm system from more than 400 kilometers away.

Pacific Ocean geography (Source: FreeWorldMaps)

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