Where do birds go when it rains?

Published 12:44 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

I haven’t fed birds in my back yard for a long time, but I still enjoy the few I see perching on top of poles, an electric wire, tree branches, or scooting across the yard. I was amused recently when I watched a mockingbird on top of a post staring down at my dog while she appeared to be tracking something in the yard. Later, I saw a mockingbird (the same one?) on top of an azalea bush where I suspect it might have a hidden nest.

Have you ever wondered where birds and animals take shelter during storms? How do they protect themselves when rain falls in torrents? What about when it snows, hails or sleets? If they suffer an injury, where do they retreat to recuperate?

Once I noticed a cloud coming up at the same time birds and squirrels populated the back yard waiting turns at feeders. Birds lined the perches and hung onto the stands and the clothesline. All of a sudden big drops of rain fell. Then it rained hard. Just that quick, the birds disappeared. Squirrels stuck it out for a while, foraging for seed under one of the feeders. When the rain pounded harder, they left, too, hurrying toward some bushes.

Once when it hailed, I heard the pellets pinging against the porch windows and bouncing on top of the steel garage. That day, the icy droplets bounced all over the back yard. They landed with enough force to punch holes in the leaves of a sunflower plant. The squash plants in our small garden sprawled over the ground, a casualty of the onslaught. There was not a wild creature in sight, causing me to wonder why we never found dead birds after severe weather. I will not forget my first look at the back yard the morning after Hurricane Opal. Amidst the fallen trees and debris, sunshine glistened on the back of a beautiful cardinal perched on a downed limb. It had held on somewhere, somehow, emerging as a survivor. We were amazed as we cleaned up in the days ahead to find not a single wildlife casualty.

A sudden popping noise at the sun porch storm door sent me rushing to investigate one day. I had heard that sound before. I dreaded what I would find. A bird had flown into the glass door and knocked itself out. When I opened the door, a young cardinal stood stone still a few feet from the steps. Even though I moved close to it, the stunned bird remained glued in the same position. It finally hopped a few feet away when an attempt was made to pick it up. A few seconds later, it winged its way to an azalea bush. It disappeared inside it.

Did it then fly off later to a secret place to recuperate? Of course, I will never know. But my curiosity about these mysteries of nature just won’t go away.