To escape a hurricane, seabirds fly right into its center

(ORDO NEWS) — Over the open sea, a meeting with a hurricane is a difficult test, which can end with the fact that the seabird is picked up by the wind and thrown far on land.

To avoid this, the variegated petrels do not try to escape from the approaching whirlwind, but fly straight into the “eye of the storm”.

A hundred years ago, Maxim Gorky in “The Song of the Petrel” wrote about a proud bird, soaring “between lightning bolts over an angry roaring sea .”

Now, researchers have been able to understand how the variegated petrel ( Calonectris leucomelas ), which spends almost its entire life in flight over the sea, manages to cope with hurricanes that inevitably occur in southern waters.

For a petrel, a hurricane is not an easy test: a strong wind can easily pick up a bird under its long wings and carry it away from its usual habitats, in the worst case, throwing it onto land and causing it to be maimed or die when it hits the ground.

However, now scientists have understood how these birds escape tropical cyclones by tracking their behavior in the Sea of ​​Japan.

Researchers from the UK and Japan attached tags to the backs of adult albatrosses and then analyzed their movements during the storm.

Since cyclones move counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, a bird captured by it in the Sea of ​​Japan could be thrown onto land, where the petrel would almost certainly be maimed and become prey for predators.

To avoid this, when a storm approaches, birds fly to the very center of the storm, where the wind speed is greatest, and remain there for several hours until the hurricane calms down or moves further from the coastline, which allows the bird to leave it safely.

In other words, petrels evaluate not only the strength of the storm, but also the direction of its movement, as well as their own position, in order to decide where to fly – away from the weather or into its epicenter.

To escape a hurricane seabirds fly right into its center 2
For humans, the consequences of a hurricane can be catastrophic, but seabirds survive them with minimal risk to themselves

However, not all petrels successfully use this strategy for survival: many juveniles are washed ashore.

Probably, in order to correctly assess the direction of the hurricane and its danger to itself, the bird needs to accumulate certain experience and draw up a mental map of the surrounding area.

So she can quickly respond to changes in the weather before the onset of a storm.

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