About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How can birds fly in the rain?

Seed eating birds don’t depend on bird feeders to survive and experts estimate that only 10-20 percent of their diet comes from feeders. But boy as you may have noticed, they do appreciate a known source of food in bad weather. They can visit your feeder, fill up and then go find some shelter to wait out the storm. It takes a lot more energy to fly in rainy conditions.

Besides upper and lower eyelids, birds also have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane which sweeps sideways across the eye. Birds can blink repeatedly with the nictitating membrane to clean the eye’s surface and spread moisture across the eye.

And yes they do draw this “rain shield” or a translucent membrane across to protect their eyes from rain.

It can also help prevent the eye from drying out when migrating long distances and hold woodpeckers eyes in place and protect them from flying debris as they peck a tree. Or in some aquatic birds like the Hooded Merganser the nictitating membrane is clear and acts like a pair of goggles to help the birds locate prey underwater.
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