While people are urged to evacuate in the face of a dangerous hurricane, birds often face a difficult problem as such storms move overhead. They can be battered and injured by the strong winds near the center of the storm, for example.
However, many birds take flight into the storm’s relatively calm eye, circling as they move along with the hurricane, sometimes traveling for hundreds of miles or more as the storm continues to move.
On Friday morning, birds were detected in weather radar images as Hurricane Matthew, then a Category 3 storm, surged towards the eastern coast near Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Weather radar images show the birds trapped in the eye of Matthew and flying along within the eye that is surrounded by the storm’s maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.
During a weather report, forecaster Glenn Burns, with Atlanta-based WSB-TV, called attention to the unusual imagery in the hurricane’s eye, explaining, “… those are seagulls and birds that are flying inside the eye of the storm trying to escape the strongest part of the storm which is in the north and north-eastern center of it.”
As Burns noted, the center of the storm is often calm and clear, which is why birds have no trouble going along for the ride.
When birds were trapped in Post-Tropical Cyclone Hermine this September, Mashable shared Audubon field editor and birding expert Kenn Kaufman’s explanation on how birds can end up hitchhiking with a storm:
The birds get into the end of the hurricanes spiral and they move toward the eye of the hurricane. They may not necessarily do that in any organized way; more likely theyre out there in all this wild wind and when they chance into the calm of the eye they may make an effort to stay there and travel with it rather than fighting the winds again.
When the storm reaches land, some of them may start fighting the winds. Others may go with it and travel with the eye until the hurricane dissipates. The majority of seabirds, if they are not too weakened from having flown for so long without food, will probably find their way back to shore quickly. They have great powers of navigation.
Hurricane Matthew has caused 2.5 million U.S. evacuations thus far.
As the hurricane continues to make its way along the coast, causing severe winds and flooding in Daytona Beach north to South Carolina, a massive storm surge is feared along the coast.