During our recent short stay at Lamington National Park, it rained for much of our first afternoon there. This was disappointing for Laura who wanted to do nothing but walk around taking photos of wildlife, but sitting on the balcony of the cafe at O'Reilly's did provide opportunities to observe how birds react to rain.
When my children were small they owned a storybook called "What Do The Animals Do in a Storm?". Of course, the book was talking about domestic animals and they all had cosy retreats like hutches and barns to retire to while it was raining and then afterwards they came out to sparkling sunshine and a freshly washed world. Bush animals don't have the luxury of secure shelters. What do they do when it rains?
During showers the activity of birds definitely seems to quieten down, although there is no intrinsic reason why it should. Most birds have a waxy coating on their feathers that make them impervious to water, so rain shouldn't bother them.
But it does bother insects, which find flight difficult, and run the risk of drowning in accumulations of water and raindrops. Also, rainfall often cools the air temperature down a bit which is likely to reduce the activity of insects, so it is logical that insectivorous birds might show a decrease in activity during rain.
Rain is also likely to dilute or wash out the nectar from flowers, making life difficult for honeyeaters, like the Eastern Spinebill
pictured here which has momentarily paused its normally relentless activity
But why would rain interrupt the acivity of fruit-eaters like
which were content to
wait out the shower, surveying the scenery from tree-tops?
Other birds were more inventive and put the rain to good use.
A number of them came begging for food on the verandah, although feeding them was strictly forbidden. And then there was the Lewin's Honey-eater that managed to bathe
by repeatedly dashing its breast up against clumps of wet leaves.
We were lucky in that it only rained for a while during that one afternoon. We had glorious weather for the rest of our stay, and the rain freshened up the