Abnormal Wildlife behaviors

Animals are very perceptive to changes in their environment. Their responses to the unexpected early nightfall and even more unexpected daybreak after such a short night, can make a fascinating study.

As the darkness of totality resembles night-time, plants and animals react accordingly to the unexpected early nightfall and the even more unexpected daybreak after a short night as totality ends. At this time, it is very interesting to study the behaviour of animals, especially birds. During the disappearance of sunlight, they tend to be very nervous and they panic. Silence reigns, as birds stop singing, during the dark minutes of totality. Many eclipse observers report that, a few moments before totality, cows often move homewards, thinking sunset has arrived.

Livestock, squirrels, insects and even domesticated pets will behave in unusual and interesting ways because of the environmental changes that accompany a total or dark annular solar eclipse. Some animals, accustomed to feeding schedules dictated by dawn and dusk, exhibit changes in eating habits on eclipse day and, according to some reports, for several days after an eclipse. Others, roosters, for example, crow on cue as twilight comes and goes, and appear to experience no disorientation at all.

Mosquitoes have been known to go on feeding frenzies, and even aquatic life is not spared; fish are reportedly more willing to bite around totality (if one can imagine taking time out from such a celestial spectacle to go fishing), and their neighboring amphibians have been heard to carry on quite loudly.

An account by one eclipse-chaser, Vermeulen, during Total Solar Eclipse in June 2001 at Southern Africa: "Nocturnal animals become active: owls hoot, bats fly, blackbirds sing like they do in the early morning, cocks crow, nocturnal grasshoppers start chirping, and so on," Vermeulen says. "One very remarkable observation: 12 chimpanzees in Atlanta were observed to climb to a higher perch, look at the Sun, and point at the Sun during totality! Almost too good to be true, but this observation was done at a primate observation center and published in a sound scientific magazine."

Studies of solar eclipse effects on individual forms of wildlife, except for occasional anecdotal accounts of diminished milk production by cows and egg production by chickens, are few at best. People with interests in these areas are encouraged to pursue them.