I watched the solar eclipse on my parents’ farm in Wisconsin and got a front row seat to wacky animal behaviour during the celestial event of the century.
At the eclipse’s peak, when the moon was covering about 83% of the sun, chipmunks popped their heads out of their burrows, and a pheasant started squawking incessantly. (My dog also briefly ran away, but I think that was mostly due to a scary garbage truck.)
Most of the evidence we have of animals behaving differently during an eclipse is anecdotal, however. Yesterday, zoos, national parks, and science centres across the US encouraged people to report their observations of animals to get more information.
On the iNaturalist app created by the California Academy of Sciences, people reported that at totality, fireflies emerged, crickets chirped, and cows mooed. But most of the observations submitted noted that animals didn’t do much of anything.
Business Insider’s Lauren Lyons Cole, who experienced 100% totality in South Carolina, said dragonflies in the area went nuts during the peak, then disappeared once the sun emerged from behind the moon.
And a Business Insider editor in Los Angeles reported that a swarm of bees hit the office window after the eclipse had passed — potentially because the brief darkness had confused the insects.
At the Memphis Zoo, which experienced 93% obscuration, the Nile crocodiles were more active than one curator had ever seen.
Visitors and staff also observed the black bears running around during totality then calming down after the sun returned, the giraffes moving toward the barn like it was nighttime, and African black-footed penguins vocalizing.
At the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York, which experienced 72% coverage, an “eerie” quiet fell over the National Recreation Area, Fox 5 reported. The crabs came to the edge of the water, probably thinking it was nighttime and that there wouldn’t be any birds around to eat them there.
Finally, many human animals in the path of totality hooted and hollered when the moon covered the sun, donning special glasses to observe the event.
Hopefully the contributions of citizen scientists and the connections researchers were able to make using new technology will yield more reliable results. If so, we’ll know more about what animals do during eclipses when the next one rolls around.