To Survive a Typhoon

White and black bird on a rock

Using GPS trackers, scientists monitored the movement of 401 streaked shearwaters breeding on Japan’s Awashima Island over 11 years. Of those birds, they found 75 that flew during typhoons or tropical storms. The paper is “the largest tracking dataset for animals in storms” to date, as co-author Emily Shepard, an expert on animal movement at Swansea University in Wales, writes in the Conversation

The tracked birds chased the eye of the storm for up to eight hours. 

“It was one of those moments where we couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” Shepard tells Science News’ Freda Kreier. “We had a few predictions for how they might behave, but this was not one of them.”

If a typhoon or hurricane hit while the shearwaters were far out at sea, they would circumnavigate it, the team revealed with statistical modeling. But most birds they examined foraged close to land. If these animals got caught between the storm and dry land, they avoided the ground—and headed for the storm. The shearwaters were also more likely to fly toward the eye during stronger storms, per the study. 

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