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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.