Feb 8, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2016

Bird Meteorologists

Does a busy bird feeder mean that a bad weather is coming?
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In the fall, when my Dad spotted the first junco (snowbird) on our farm, he told us all that it would be six weeks until the first trackable snow. He marked the date on the calendar. If the snow fell near the predicted date, Dad would marvel aloud at what an amazing prophet a snowbird was. If the date wasn’t close, the failed feathered seer was not mentioned.

Sometimes the juncos were right. Sometimes the weatherman on TV is right. Here are some sayings about avian meteorologists:

  • Birds fly lower before a storm.
  • A busy bird feeder means bad weather is coming.
  • Birds singing in the rain means the rain will soon stop.
  • Birds eat more just before a storm.
  • When birds stop singing and the trees start swinging, a storm is on its way.
  • When birds eat a lot and then disappear, a terrible storm is very near.
  • If a crow hollers in the morning, expect rain by night.
  • If crows fly in pairs, expect fine weather. A crow flying alone is a sign of foul weather.
  • When the grouse drum at night, there will be a deep fall of snow.
  • Hawks flying high means a clear sky; when they fly low, prepare for a blow.
  • Cranes aloft, the day is soft; swallows soar, good weather more.
  • A robin singing at dawn while facing west means a change in weather by noon.
  • If the robin sings loudly from the topmost of trees, expect a storm.
  • When woodpeckers peck low on the trees, expect warm weather.
  • The loon calls loudest before the storm.

About Al Batt

Al Batt is a writer, speaker, storyteller, and humorist. His first book is a collection of his stories, A Life Gone to the Birds, published by BWD Press. Order this book from our nature shop »

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018