By Eliana Dockterman
December 19, 2014

Five golden-winged warblers left their nests one day before devastating tornadoes in the central U.S. in April, suggesting they could sense the storms coming, according to new tracking data.

These migrant songbirds may be able to sense extreme weather events with low frequency hearing, a new study in the Journal of Current Biology says. The warblers left their nesting area when the storm was still over 100 miles away and weather conditions in the area were normal. Ecologists say they could likely hear an “infrasound” signaling the approach of the storm, which humans cannot hear.

The birds left their nesting area just days after completing their seasonal migration. Geolocators show them flying from the Appalachians 400 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The stormfront consisted of 84 tornadoes that led to 35 fatalities and over $1 billion in property damage.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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