Multiple tornadoes devastated parts of the southern and central US in April
US scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers “evacuated” their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.
Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico.
The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, ecologists suggest these birds – and others – may sense such extreme events with their keen low-frequency hearing.
Remarkably, the warblers had completed their seasonal migration just days earlier, settling down to nest after a 5,000km (3,100 mile) journey from Colombia.
Dr Henry Streby, from the University of California, Berkeley, said he initially set out to see if tracking the warblers was even possible.
“This was just a pilot season for a larger study that we’re about to start,” Dr Streby told the BBC.
The golden-winged warblers were being tracked as part of a pilot study of their normal, seasonal migration
“These are very tiny songbirds – they weigh about nine grams.
“The fact that they came back with the geolocators was supposed to be the great success of this season. Then this happened!”