Bird Species and Hurricanes

Have you ever wondered what can happen when bird species at sea get caught up in a hurricane?

Rob Ripma

While hurricanes can be extremely destructive and dangerous, there are definite possibilities of finding a rare bird after storms have passed through. Bird species that are normally found miles and miles out at sea can be seen much closer to shore and in some cases even hundreds of miles inland. As a hurricane passes over the ocean, birds can get caught up in the storm and be taken for quite an exciting ride. There are some pretty unbelievable bird records from all over the eastern U.S. and Canada in the wake of hurricanes.

Magnificent Frigatebirds often get pushed inland by hurricanes.

Magnificent Frigatebirds often get pushed inland by hurricanes.

While I hope that none of you are ever affected by hurricanes, if you do find yourself in that situation, consider exploring the area around you after it’s safe to do so to see if any exotic seabirds have been pushed to the shore or farther inland. Although hurricane season is just getting underway for 2014, Hurricane Arthur already provided some interesting birding along the North Carolina Coast. Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Great Shearwater, and Sooty and Bridled Terns were all seen along the coast even though they are usually seen 20 or more miles out at sea. The storm also provided some excitement among birders in Nova Scotia, Canada where an exhausted Black Skimmer was found! Hopefully the skimmer will find enough food and make it back south.

Great Shearwaters have only been found inland after hurricanes a few times. I photographed this one on a trip into the Gulf Stream out of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Great Shearwaters have only been found inland after hurricanes a few times. I photographed this one on a trip into the Gulf Stream out of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

These Wilson's Storm-Petrels are similar to the Leach's that I mention and are also sometime found inland after hurricanes pass through.

These Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are similar to the Leach’s that I mentioned above and are also sometimes found inland after hurricanes have passed. This small flock was photographed on the same trip as the Great Shearwater.

If you ever find a bird that is injured or in distress after a hurricane (or at any other time), contact your local bird rehabilitater, nature center, or wildlife officer. They will know the best way to help the bird.

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