animal behavior before storms

Animal Behavior Before Storms:  Can Animals Predict the Weather?

I’m sure you’ve heard the sayings before suggesting that animals have a sixth sense about the weather.  This is especially true if you grew up around farms, where it’s common to hear and see changes in animal behavior before storms.  The saying I remember the best is that if the cows all lay down, a storm is brewing.  But, is it really true?  Can animals predict the weather? 

Of course, the animal most popular for being able to predict the weather is the groundhog.  Folklore has is that if the groundhog comes out of his hole on February 2nd and sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter!  This tradition has gone on fore more than 120 years now, but it turns out this strategy for predicting the weather is less than ideal.  Studies actually show that Punxsutawney Phil is only about 39% accurate.  So, this is a bad example, but it is true that some animals appear to have the ability to predict the weather.

How Do Animals Predict Weather?

I’m not sure we can scientifically prove one way or the other which animals can actually predict the weather.  However, there is at least some science behind this phenomenon. 

For example, when storms are imminent, the barometric pressure tends to drop.  This is because hot air is denser, forcing it to rise as it collides with cooler air.  This creates a sort of vacuum, decreasing the pressure at the surface. 

Bird Behavior Before a Storm

This change in air pressure is one reason animals such as birds can sense oncoming storms and thus, predict certain types of weather.  It’s said that birds fly low and stay closer to the ground when storms are approaching.  This is because the falling air pressures hurt their ears.  Likewise, when the weather is good, birds tend to chirp and sing more, while the tend to keep quieter during times of poor weather conditions.  I’ve heard that if you see birds eating during a storm, it’s likely to be a long one.  If it were going to be short, they would just wait until it stops raining.

bird behavior before a storm

Other Animals and Weather Changes

Like I mentioned above, there’s little scientific proof that animals can broadly predict weather changes.  Even in the cases where it has been proven they have some insight, it’s more of an anticipation for oncoming storms rather than a full-on prediction of any weather condition that might be coming the next day like we expect out of the local weatherman.

Nonetheless, some farmers swear by these old sayings and I think it’s fun to talk about them anyway, so there are a few more “old wives’ tales” that I was able to conger up searching the web.  I can’t say for certain which are accurate and which aren’t. 


Cows predict the weather when they all lay down together, indicating upcoming storms.   The reasoning I’ve heard for this is that they want to reserve a dry spot before it starts raining and the ground gets wet.  Others have said that cows just like to be close to the ground when it’s cool to keep warm.

how do cows predict the weather

Bees & Butterflies

Bees and butterflies are nowhere to be found before a storm.  It’s said that they can sense the bad weather coming and stay home for safety.

Lady Bugs

When lady bugs swarm, you know the weather should be warm.  Not only is this true in the summer, but in the fall and winter, lady bugs actually release a pheromone that attracts other lady bugs when they find a warm location.

Red and Black ants predict the weather when they build bigger, sturdier hills prior to storms.  It’s believed that they do this to protect the entrance to their underground tunnels from being disturbed by the wind and rain.

When sheep gather in a huddle, tomorrow will have a puddle.  The idea here is protection in numbers.   Sheep gather together to shield each other from the impending weather.

It’s been said that frogs’ croaks are louder and last longer than usually when poor weather conditions are coming.


It’s fun to watch the animals for clues about oncoming storms, but if you’re really serious about the weather, a home weather station is the way to go.  The Ambient Weather WS-2902A shown below is a great choice!

Preview image - Ambient WS-2902A

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