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Weather Fiction

Weather Fiction: Proverbs that can be disproven or may appear truthful by chance only.


Tree-frogs piping during rain indicates continued rain.
Not necessarily.

A screeching owl indicates cold or storm.
Screech owls vocalize to attract a mate and establish territories, not to broadcast a weather report.

If birds in general pick their feathers, wash themselves and fly to their nests, expect rain.
Probably false since there are many reasons for those observed behaviors.

Fish swim up stream, and catfish jump out of water before rain.
Probably false since some species swim upstream to spawn, but a few catfish might feed aggressively enough to break the surface prior to a storm due to falling pressure.

If the skin on the belly of the catfish is unusually thick, it indicates a cold winter; if not, a mild winter will follow.
False – Active feeding could cause catfish to become overweight, but this behavior would be unrelated to long-range weather changes. They might have bigger bellies, but not thicker skin.

When cranes make a great noise or scream, expect rain.
Cranes are vocal birds and make a great deal of noise all the time.

Frogs singing in the evening indicate fair weather for the next day. 
Not necessarily.  Frogs frequently call as rain approaches or humidity rises, but their calling is not restricted only to the times when these conditions are followed by fair weather.

Cuttles, with their many legs, swimming on the top of the water and striving to be above the waves, presage a storm.

Cuttlefish swimming on the surface of water indicate the approach of storm. False: These two sayings related to cuttlefish may be a case of mistaken identity. Generally cuttlefish are bottom dwelling animals that spend the majority of the daytime resting on or buried in the sand. They become active at night to hunt for food. While cuttlefish do swim about and may hover in the water column, it would be very surprising to see them swimming at the surface of the ocean at all.

If cuttlefish are observed floating at the surface in an aquarium, it is a sign that the animal is unhealthy and losing control of its buoyancy. So cuttlefish might float only after a storm, if the waves had injured the animals leaving them to float around. It’s possible that the author of these proverbs mistook squid for cuttlefish. Some squid species will swim at the surface occasionally. So it’s possible the observer saw squid feeding near the surface prior to a storm and penned this proverb.

When chimney swallows circle and call, they speak of rain.  Chimney swallows circle and call all the time.

Skates jump in the direction that the next wind will come from. False – Skates and stingrays don’t jump. These animals are bottom dwellers.

Blackbirds flocking in the fall indicate a spell of cold weather. Blackbirds always flock together in the fall.

Croaking frogs in spring will be three times frozen in. Intermittent warm and wet weather in the spring may bring frogs out only to get slammed with snow and ice.  In some locations, spring peepers can frequently be heard calling in the snow.

If cranes place their bills under their wings, expect rain. False – It indicates they are tired, because cranes sleep that way.

Owls hooting indicate rain. Not true.

If owls scream in foul weather, it will change to fair. Not necessarily true.

If owls hoot at night, expect fair weather. Whooo came up with these owl sayings?

In equinoctial storms fish bite the best before the sun crosses the line. False – This one sounds like some sailors spent too much time at sea.

Birds telegraph impending trouble – One weather folklore story related to American alligators focused on the Seminole tribe living in south Florida. It was reported that the Seminoles observed unusual behavior in plants and animals in the area and evacuated before a devastating hurricane hit the area. The folklore told of an unseasonable blooming of saw grass and alligators “barking” and moving into deep water. The Tennessee Aquarium contacted Robert Mykle, author of “Killer Cane,” a historical account of the 1928 hurricane. According to Mykle, a portion of this story is true. The Seminoles did evacuate and survive the storm based on nature, but it was bird observations and not alligators that saved them. Mykle stated, “I found only one plausible story told by Betty Mae Jumper, former President of the Seminole Tribe, who related that frigate birds (man-o-war birds) which are almost exclusively pelagic were spotted over the Everglades a couple of days before the '28 Storm hit. They were probably riding on the high winds and steering currents running before the storm.  Such an unusual event as the presence of frigate birds would alert an observant people attuned to any changes and signs in their environment that something extraordinary was about to happen.  Even so the Seminoles, especially those in the Brighton Reservation, on the western edge of Lake Okeechobee, lost a lot of cattle.”

Back to Fintastic Folklore Forecasters . . .