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.

golden_winged_warbler_male2

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”.

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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.

gw-warbler_spread

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 Biologyhttp://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)01428-6

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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