The Great Outdoors

Birds As Weather Forecasters – Life In The Outdoors

It’s December. Another year has passed, almost. I’m thinking of previous years, long ago, years when I was a boy, when I lived in a small town in northwest Iowa. December was winter in Iowa. Real winter. A freezing temperature every day, often a below zero temperature. There was no snow and ice. My brother and I shoveled snow off driveways and sidewalks many mornings before school. We each had a sled and ice skates and skis. I wonder if it’s still like that in December in Iowa or has the weather changed there as much as it has in northern Indiana.

We’ve had snow in northern Indiana this winter, once, barely enough to cover the ground. The snow fell during the night and melted the next day.

It’s a gray-sky morning. If I was a boy in Iowa now I would expect snow to start falling at any time now. But I’m not in Iowa and I’m certainly not a boy. But I’m a bird watcher as I was when I was a boy. And I’ve been watching the birds, looking up from my computer screen frequently and out the window behind the computer screen. I‘ve seen crows fly over. I’ve seen two turkey vultures fly over. I never saw a turkey vulture in Iowa when I was a boy. I’ve seen house sparrows which were called English sparrows when I was a boy.The sparrows have been flying back and forth between the trees in the yard and the bird feeder. There have been black-capped chickadees and a white-breasted nuthatch at the feeder outside my window this morning. Black-capped chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches came to my feeder in Iowa, in winter. I don’t remember seeing either at my feeder in summer.

I had just one bird feeder in Iowa. Dad helped me build it. We hung it on a wire we strung between the house, outside a window of course, and a tree at the edge of the driveway. I’ve seen several tufted titmice this morning and don’t remember ever seeing a titmouse in Iowa.

I’ve seen two dark-eyed outside my computer window this morning. Those were called slate-colored juncos when I was a boy. I saw them in Iowa occasionally but only in winter. I see them every winter, now though I don’t see them in summer. Until a month or two ago I saw two mourning doves at one of my feeders every day except when the weather was bad. Then we had three or four bad weather days in a row and I haven’t seen a mourning dove since.

I have seen cardinals this morning. I see cardinals, frequently two at the same time, at the feeders around my house now. I saw one cardinal in Iowa. I say one because I never saw more than one at a time and I always saw that one in the same place, frequently at the same tree.

Birds as Weather Forecasters? Not for me. I’d trust Dad’s forecasts more than birds. From the looks of the sky Dad once hurried us home from downtown to get the car in the garage because he said it looked like there might soon be some hail. We got home, got the car in the garage and there was hail. But it didn’t protect the car. The hail came with a tornado which blew the garage away and left the car with a tree across its roof.

I continue to watch the birds, but not to have them predict the weather. For the weather I rely on radio and TV forecasters although they are as inaccurate at times as the birds.

Neil A. Case

Neil A. Case

I have always liked the outdoors and birds and am a conservationist and an environmentalist. I don't write specifically about conservation but mix my opinion in with stories about a bird, a mammal, a plant or other outdoor subject. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer