As Hurricane Matthew continues to batter the caribbean and Florida's eastern shoreline, meteorologists have been sharing as much radar information as possible. But while the biggest concern is, of course, for the people living in the affected areas, the radar has revealed another group affected by the severe weather: birds.
Birds often show up in the eye of hurricanes; It happened just last month with Hurricane Hermine. Birds have no way of anticipating the severe weather and spiral their way into the eye, according to Audubon field editor and birding expert Kenn Kaufman, who wrote about the phenomenon a few years ago.
"They may not necessarily do that in any organized way; more likely they're out there in all this wild wind and when they chance into the calm of the eye they may make an effort to stay there and travel with it rather than fighting the winds again," Kaufman wrote. "When the storm reaches land, some of them may start fighting the winds. Others may go with it and travel with the eye until the hurricane dissipates."
But how do meteorologists pick out which colors on their radars are birds, compared to weather systems or debris? Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist with the Weather Network, explained this in a video last month when the same phenomenon happened during Hermine. Different radar views show different measurements, including one that identifies objects that have similar shapes by using different colors.
"Basically when you see this higher colors, like the purples and the whites, that's when things are more hamburger-shaped," Sarsalari said. "Think about how birds fly. They would appear more hamburger-shaped to the radar. That's why they're showing up like that."
On Friday, meteorologist Jonathan Belles tweeted that the birds he had seen in the eye of Hurricane Matthew last night seemed to have dissipated. But according to Kaufman, that may not actually be good news.
"There are probably substantial numbers of little migrant [birds] that just get taken out during the storm," he wrote.
Let's hope these birds met a less dismal fate.