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I just spent two nights observing the Perseids and was wondering whether any animals have been recorded to exhibit unusual behaviour in response to meteor showers.

It is known that some animals change their behavior at night in response to moonlight and artificial illumination (e.g. eagle owls call more frequently at full moon), but I am not aware of any materials indicating behavioral changes in response to short-term lights like those produced by meteor showers or far away lightnings.

Any pointers would be appreciated.

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There are a significant number of major meteor showers in the earth's orbit, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. Nocturnal animals have good night vision (obviously) and their acclimation to the dark plus time spent awake at night (if they look up at all) means they see many, many more meteors on average than humans do.

The year's parade starts with the Quadrantid shower.

January overall has good meteor rates restricted to the last third of the night. Rates to 20/hour can be obtained.

Meteor "showers" (if they can be called that) continue until mid-march, when they drop off to a "very poor" rate of 10/hour or less, continuing this pattern into early June, except for the Lyrids (max: April 22/23) and the Eta Aquariids (max: May 7/8).

February, March, and April evenings have another notable feature. An unusual number of sporadic fireballs come in this interval, possibly one every few nights.

In the last half of July, we get the Delta Aquariids (July 29/30) and Alpha Capricornids (July 27-28). Then the Perseids (maximum: August 12/13), rich to our eyes at about 100/hr at their peak, moon and weather permitting.

From September to the first half of December is pretty rich.

Mid-October to mid-December is a nearly continuous period of heavy meteor activity. The Orionids (max: October 21/22) during the second half of October have a prolonged, plateau maximum for several nights, usually rich. The Taurids (max: October 11 for S. Taurids, November 13/14 for N. Taurids), active for two months, are most numerous in November’s first half, and can be rather variable in strength. This period is the best for a couple of Taurid fireballs each night, if the shower is not too weak. The Leonids of mid-November (max: November 17-19) are quite unpredictable, with rich displays occuring roughly every 33 years.

Finally there's the Geminids of mid-December (max: December 13/14) with "the strongest dependable and observable display" (usually passing 60-70/hour at maximum.)

Finally, the oft-overlooked Ursids complete the year’s activity, reaching maximum on December 22/23. Nearly half the year’s visual meteor activity is crammed into the two-month interval just described.

What does all this have to do with biology and your question? I'm guessing here that the Perseids, though rich for humans, are probably nothing exciting for animals. The diurnals and crepusculars don't see them at all (they're soundless and certainly not bright enough to wake anyone up). The nocturnals see the (or not, depending on where they're looking) all the time. So a study wouldn't likely detect much, would be challenging to design well, would cost some big bucks, and wouldn't really help humans like studying animal behavior before earthquakes and such.

As a child, I once saw some very funny chicken behavior on my grandmother's farm during a total eclipse of the sun. It was so funny that I remembered it all the years since.

I searched, as I'm sure you did, and the first hit on regular Google was this question. A scholar search brought up possible animal behavioral changes before fireballs.

Major Meteor Showers

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  • $\begingroup$ The entire middle part of this answer seems to be an almanac and has nothing to do whatsoever with the question. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Aug 15 '15 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MarchHo - How to say "Nah, it happens all the time" without proof? That's not like me. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Aug 15 '15 at 16:17

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