Archive for June, 2016

Have you ever had a bowling ball dropped on your head from ten feet? Me neither. But I expect it would hurt. A lot.

That’s why I worry whenever it rains. I wonder what a tiny chickadee feels when he is flying along minding his own business and suddenly it gets wacked on the head by a giant rain drop. Ouch! For a chickadee the impact might be equal to a bowling ball. It could knock the chickadee out of the sky (without a black box recording explaining what actually happened). Maybe that is why you don’t see many birds flying when it is raining.

Scientists tell me not to worry. They say it is not a problem and assure me it won’t happen.   They say as a rain drop falls and gains speed it creates a tiny bubble of air in front of it. When that air bubble reaches the chickadee, it gently pushes the rain drop away from the bird so they never directly collide. In a way it is like the air flowing over the wing of a jet plane. Rather than creating an air blockage, the air gets directed above and below the plane’s wing and actually creates a pressure differential that provides lift for the plane.

Because birds are so tiny we sometimes overlook difficulties they could encounter. We are big, they are much smaller. Events that humans can easily survive might be much more dramatic for a bird. For example, humans may not like snow, but they can easily handle an inch or two of snow. That much snow might be taller than a bird’s head.

Or consider a windy day. We can feel the force of wind gusts of 15-20 miles per hour. Our hair may blow around, or our eyes may tear.   But even a light breeze must feel like a hurricane to a bird. How do they even manage to fly in wind?

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