Organism of the Week: Golden-winged warbler

Native to the northern Appalachian Mountains and the northern Midwest (USA and Canada), the Golden-winged warbler is a small, colorful, passerine* bird. Found solely in the New World, the species Vermivora chrysoptera has gained notoriety for its psychic abilities.


A study published in the journal, Current Biology, established the notion that golden-winged warblers could predict extreme weather events. How do they do this? Due to their ability to hear at low frequencies, these “psychic” birds have been show to sense far-off storms, before they strike. For example, recently in April of 2014, in eastern Tennessee, a storm occurred with approximately 84 tornadoes that killed around 35 people, called the “April Tornado Outbreak”.


The April Tornado Outbreak devastated several states in the central and southern regions of the United States.

However 24 hours before the storm hit, all golden-winged warblers in the area migrated 400 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Their keen sense of hearing detected the low-range infrasounds** emitted by the storms, and they noticed a change in atmospheric pressure.


A golden-winged warbler with a geolocator on its left leg.

Below is a quotation from Dr. Henry Streby, from the University of California, Berkeley which explains the implications of this newfound discovery — the unexpected result of a completely different experiment, on geolocators***:

“With the predicted increase in severity and frequency of similar storms as anthropogenic climate change progresses, understanding large-scale behavioral responses of animals to such events will be an important objective of future research.”

For more information about Dr. Streby’s experiment, please see Current Biology

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!         -Science Phenomena

*Of the order Passeriformes **Sound below the range of human hearing  ***Method to track birds’ migration patterns


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