Surprising Ways Animals React to Solar Eclipses
By Andrew Fazekas : Nat Geo August 14, 2017
<<Reports of unusual animal reactions to solar eclipses date back centuries. One of the earliest stories comes from Italian monk Ristoro d'Arezzo, who described what happened during a total eclipse on June 3, 1239. As the sun disappeared and the sky turned dark, “all the animals and birds were terrified; and the wild beasts could easily be caught,” he wrote.
During an eclipse seen in Portugal on August 21, 1560, astronomer Christoph Clavius wrote that during totality, “stars appeared in the sky and (marvellous to behold) the birds fell down from the sky to the ground in terror of such horrid darkness.”
Modern astronomers and eclipse chasers have also reported wild and domestic animals noticeably reacting to eclipses: Dairy cows return to the barn, crickets begin chirping, birds either go to roost or become more active, and whales breach in the seas. Veteran eclipse-chaser Peter den Hartog traveled to Hungary in 1999 to experience totality, and he remembers seeing various species of birds and bats suddenly appear during totality. “[Was it because of] the light intensity, or the flies and mosquitoes that came out … I'm not sure, but I‘ve definitely experienced more activity during eclipses,” Hartog says.
Eclipse-chaser and author Dave Balch was in Kona, Hawaii, for the 1991 total eclipse and noticed excited activity among the birds along the pier during the partial phases before and after totality. “We could hardly hear each other talk! Then came totality – not a sound. It was deathly quiet. The difference between the noise levels before and during totality was stunning.”
And eclipse-chaser Tora Greve was on an expedition to Zambia in 2001 when she noticed that, just as the sun disappeared, frogs began making sounds and raptors stopped circling, possibly due to the change in thermals as the air cooled. Around the water hole where she was standing, she says, giraffes “started running about during the whole totality. When the sun came back, they stopped and began grazing the trees again.”>>