Thanks to modern weather forecasting, we can accurately predict potential threats from storms and hurricanes. Unfortunately, our pet birds do not have access to that knowledge and so may be unable to cope with the effects of extreme weather. In the wild they would be on their own, but since we have chosen to keep them captive, it is up to us to take care of their special needs during serious weather events.
Bird Behaviour Before A Storm
Birds can sense oncoming storms. According to nationalgeographic.com, warblers in Tennessee abandoned their breeding grounds several days before the arrival of severe thunderstorms. Birds have a capacity to hear low-frequency sounds known as infrasound that precedes a storm’s arrival.
Your pet bird has this same capacity to some degree, and can show signs of an impending severe weather event by exhibiting behavior changes. Barometric pressure can also be sensed by birds as reported in phys.org. Experiments revealed that birds would change their normal pattern of preening at dawn and immediately start feeding if the barometric pressure indicated a storm was approaching.
Your pet bird cannot move to a new location to avoid a storm, so must find a way help it get through the event. Some birds may become more aggressive or change their feeding habits as a large storm approaches. Certain birds may be sensitive to loud noises and become frightened or upset during thunderstorms. If you are aware of how they act during a storm you can better help them remain calm when the next one appears.
One of the major issues related to severe weather is power outages. These adversely affect both you and your birds. Loss of lights, air-conditioning or heat can occur after a serious storm, and your pet may be less able to deal with these conditions than you are. Obviously, the destructive force of a hurricane and the potential for structural damage to your home introduces another level of danger for all occupants of the house.
Where Should Birds Go During A Hurricane?
In the wild, a bird would be able to fly away from the storm area to safety. But with pet birds, if you live in areas that are prone to hurricanes, one of the best things you can do for your pet bird is to be very well prepared. Birdsupplies.com suggests that you should take the following steps to be ready to take your bird with you in the event you have to evacuate your home.
Microchip your bird
This procedure will allow you to attempt to find your bird if it is separated from you, which can easily happen as you scramble to evacuate.
Have a bird carrier or travel cage
Each of your birds should have a carrier with a perch and water bowls. You should acclimate your bird to its carrier so when it is needed your bird will readily enter the carrier and not be stressed. You can then take your bird with you as you evacuate during the hurricane or storm. Our guide to bird carriers is available here.
Create a bird evacuation kit
Using a watertight container, gather supplies you would need for at least 2 weeks. Bird food, extra bowls, bottled water, and a first aid kit. Cleaning supplies, bird toys, and some canned fruits and vegetables that the bird likes should also be included.
Plan your evacuation site
Public shelters will not take your pet, so you need to find a suitable place for your stay. Search your areas for pet-friendly shelters and hotels as well as any friends you might call on in an emergency.
Hopefully, you never have to enact your evacuation plan, but if the need arises, you will be glad that it exists. Here is a video showing how to put it together:
In many cases, your family will remain in your home and ride out the hurricane. To keep your bird safe, put it in its carrier and place the carrier in a high place that cannot possibly be flooded. The carrier should also not be near any doors or windows.
Power failures are common during hurricanes, and they usually mean high temperatures in your home. A spray bottle to mist down your bird and help it keep cool is essential. You must also keep in mind that birds are very sensitive to fumes, so candles, oil lamps, and other light sources that might emit fumes must be used far from the bird, and the bird’s room should be well ventilated.
Lightning and Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms are much more prevalent than hurricanes and there is a good chance that you and your bird regularly experience them. While not normally posing the same dangers as hurricanes, thunderstorms can cause your pet bird to undergo stress. They also present an opportunity for accidents that can be minimized with some preventive action.
Make sure your bird’s cage is not near any windows during a storm as flying debris and wind gusts could break the window. Keep your bird in its cage during the storm, especially if it likes to fly. A sudden loud thunderclap accompanied by a power flash could startle your bird, leading to potential injury as it flies in a darkened room.
Once you have your pet in a safe location, you can try to minimize its stress. Close windows and curtains to reduce noise and lighting flashes. Staying with your bird is fine as long as you remain calm. Your bird may sense your anxiety and become even more stressed. Try to distract your bird with some favorite toys or other activities that can be done with your bird still in its cage. Some people even use white noise or brown noise on their phone or computer speakers. This can help to drown out the noise of thunder claps but can also be irritating to your bird if turned on too loudly so be careful with this approach and adjust as needed.
What Do I Need To Do After The Storm?
When the storm is over you want things to return to normal. If your house is intact and you did not have any flooding this is fairly straightforward. Your bird can be removed from its emergency carrier and returned to its regular cage. Cages that were moved to be in safer areas can go back to their original location. Reassure your bird and give it some extra attention, but it might be best for it to remain in the cage for the day if there is a chance of more stormy weather to follow.
If you have experienced flooding you need to ensure that the home is properly dried and cleaned to avoid mold growth. As lafeber.com cautions, mold can cause problems for your bird’s sensitive respiratory system. If cleaning crews are using chemicals, make sure your bird is not anywhere near them for the same reason. Keep them out of the area until all fumes have had plenty of time to disperse.