Infrasound may have alerted warblers to the massive storm, prompting them to fly more than a thousand kilometres to avoid it
Ian Sample, science editor
Thursday 18 December 2014 17.00 GMT
A group of songbirds may have avoided a devastating storm by fleeing their US breeding grounds after detecting telltale infrasound waves.
Researchers noticed the behaviour after analysing trackers attached to the birds to study their migration patterns. They believe it is the first documented case of birds making detours to avoid destructive weather systems on the basis of infrasound.
The golden-winged warblers had just returned from South America to their breeding grounds in the mountains of Tennessee in 2013 when a massive storm was edging closer. Although the birds had just completed a migration of more than 2,500km, they still had the energy to evade the danger.
The storm, which spawned more than 80 tornadoes across the US and killed 35 people, was 900km away when the birds, apparently acting independently of one another, fled south, with one bird embarking on a 1,500km flight to Cuba before making the return trip once the storm had passed.