1434: Where Do Birds Go

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Where Do Birds Go
Water/ice has a lot of weird phases. Maybe asking 'where do birds go when it rains' is like asking 'where does Clark Kent go whenever Superman shows up?'
Title text: Water/ice has a lot of weird phases. Maybe asking 'where do birds go when it rains' is like asking 'where does Clark Kent go whenever Superman shows up?'


Cueball searches Google to find out where birds go when it rains. He finds that the question is asked worldwide, across many different languages and websites. A variety of screenshots are shown of different websites and forums where users have asked where birds go when it rains, with at least nine languages shown. The bottom of this panel fades to white, suggesting that the occurrence of these questions stretches on and on. Cueball expresses delight at the idea that this question is the one to which everyone wants to know the answer; worrying about birds getting wet is "the thing that unites us".

Later in the comic, a bird in the rain is also searching on the Internet for where birds go when it rains. This is humorously implying that a significant set of these questions are being typed by birds looking for a dry place after being caught in the rain, and not humans. This makes Cueball wrong; worrying about birds getting wet does not unite us. In reality, as the comic states, birds look for shelter so they can stay dry. On a rainy day you can usually find birds in leafy trees, caves or other kinds of cover.

In the Superman comics, Clark Kent is Superman, so you never observe both Clark Kent and Superman simultaneously. By analogy, the title text whimsically suggests that a possible inference from the observation that you never see birds and rain together is that birds are the rain. Perhaps birds are an unknown phase of water. In addition to its familiar phases of ice, vapor, and liquid water, water has more exotic phases such as low-temperature and high-pressure ices and supercritical gases; why not birds?

The title text imbues the question with more philosophical significance than it warrants (prompted, perhaps, by Cueball's earlier hyperbole), and points up the irrationality of the implication that a question must be deep simply because a lot of people ask it, and that such questions demand a complex, radical answer.

Websites shown in image[edit]

Language Question Translation
French Où se cachent les oiseaux quand il pleut? Where do the birds hide themselves when it rains?
German Was passiert jetzt eigentlich mit den vögeln, die bei dem wetter in den bäumen sitzen? What actually happens with the birds that are sitting in the trees in this weather?[1]
Was machen Vögel bei schlechtem Wetter? What do birds do in bad weather?
Wohin gehen Vögel? Where do birds go?
Spanish ¿Qué pasa con las aves durante un huracán? What happens to the birds during a hurricane?
¿A donde se van los pajaritos cuando llueve? Where do the little birds go when it rains?[2]
Dutch Waar blijven de vogels als het heel hard stormt? Where do birds stay when it is storming very hard?
Finnish Minne linnut menevät sateella? Where do the birds go when it rains?
Chinese (simplified) 下雨时鸟儿往哪躲 When it rains, where do birds go to hide?
下雨的时候小鸟住在哪里? When it rains, where do the little birds go?
为什么鸟儿下雨的时候在天上飞不会因为淋湿掉下来? When it rains, why do birds not fall down from getting soaked?
Japanese 【雑学】暴風雨の時、鳥はどこに避難してるの? Miscellaneous Knowledge: Where do birds take shelter during a rainstorm?
Malay (Indonesian) Burung Dapat Bertahan Terbang Berapa Lama Disaat Hujan ? How Long Can Birds Survive Flying In the Rain ?
  1. In proper German, all nouns should be capitalized. The author leaves them uncapitalized, characteristic of lazy/hurried typing.
  2. In proper Spanish, the word "donde" in this context should have an accent (dónde). This is a rule that even some newspapers manage to get wrong.


[The comic is separated into three sections, with Cueball and Megan having a discussion in the first section, websites found through Google search results depicted in the second, and a bird depicted in the third.]

[First Section - Cueball is sitting at his computer.]
Cueball: "Where do birds go when it rains?" is my new favorite Google search.
Megan [off screen]: Why?
Cueball: It gives the answer, but also shows you an endless torrent of other people asking the same question. Pages and pages of them across regions and cultures.
[Megan enters the frame and shows interest in the computer.]
Cueball: I love the idea that somehow this is the universal question, the thing that unites us. When it rains, we wonder where the birds go, and hope they're staying dry.

[Second Section - A collage of screen snippets.]
from Yahoo! Answers: Where do the birds go when it rains? I've noticed I rarely see birds flying around or in trees or on power lines when it's raining, So where do they go?
from Godlike Productions: Where do birds go when it rains really hard?

Ok, maybe I'm an idiot for asking this, but during the slew of several storms in California the last couple weeks, I began to wonder where the poor birds go to stay dry? The ducks, seagulls, owls, sparrows, hummingbirds, hawks, etc...I see them all the ti[...]

from Random Thoughts From Midlife: Where do the birds go when it rains?
from Answers.com: Where do birds go when it rains?
from Yahoo! Respuestas: ¿A donde se van los pajaritos cuando llueve?
from Active Rain: Where do Birds go When it Rains? I'm no youngster...and I have no answer for this. I've talked to alot of people about the likelihood of where birds go when it rains and everyone has a different perspective.
from Ask MetaFilter: Where do the birds go when it rains? BirdFeederFilter: When it's gloomy and rainy, I don't see any birds at my birdfeeder for days on end. Then as soon as it's sunny, they're all over the place. What gives? What do they do on rainy days, just forage near their nest?
from Snippets: Where do city birds go when it rains?
from http://wenwen.sogou.com/: 下雨时鸟儿往哪躲


from eNature.com: Storm shelter In Florida, where I live, we get many thunderstorms, but I never see the birds in trees during the storms. We recently had a tropical storm and I did not see any birds in the trees. Where do birds go when it rains or storms? Just like at night, birds will seek shelter during storms. I remember watching a flock of American robins dive into[...]
from Yahoo! Answers: When it is raining heavily, where do the birds go...i don't see them on the trees, where do they take shelter?
from Yahoo! Questions Réponses: Où se cachent les oiseaux quand il pleut? De ma fenêtre, je n'en aperçois plus un!!!...Les pies semblent avoir abandonné leurs nids...
from gutefrage.net: was passiert jetzt eigentlich mit den vögeln, die bei dem wetter in den bäumen sitzen? bei uns regnet es heftig und der orkanartige wind wechelst ständig richtung und geschwindigkeit. können sich die vögel da in den bäumen halten? retten sie sich instinktiv vorher irgendwohin, wo sie windgeschützt sind?
from Yahoo! Answers: Where do birds go when it rains? I never see any out...?
from lainformacion.com: ¿Qué pasa con las aves durante un huracán?
from Baidu: 下雨的时候小鸟住在哪里? 下雨的时候小鸟住在哪里?如果是在春天夏天那还好,有树叶遮挡着,但是到了秋天冬天下雨小鸟住在哪里?还住在在树上搭的窝里吗?不怕冻坏自己和小幼崽吗?如果躲雨那就在哪里躲雨呢?怎么没见过它们躲雨? 谢谢。
from Fairfax Underground: What do birds do when it rains? Recently I installed a bird feeder outside my bedroom window. It is so wonderful the diversity of our feathered friends that frequent the feeder! I love it. My question that I haven't found an answer to is this: What do the little birdies do when it rains? I mean, do they stay put in the trees that they find themselves in,
from a blog on vuodatus.net: Minne linnut menevät sateella? Tänään satoi rankasti. Kuljin metsän halki. Kuulin linnun laulavan. Yksinäinen, mutta itsenäinen ja vahva, tulkitseva ääni. Kaunis. Minne linnut menevät sateella? En ole koskaan nähnyt lintuja rankkasateessa. Luulen, että ne yrittävät löytää suojan. Kuusien ja mäntyjen oksistossa on varmaan suojaisaa. Kallioiden koloihin ja pieniin luolastoihin voi ehkä lintukin hiipiä. Rohkeille löytyy pihoilta suojapaikkoja. Ehkä linnulla oli oma pesäkolo. Siellä oli lämmintä ja kuivaa. Sieltä saattoi rauhassa katsella sateen vierailua metsässä. Siellä saattoi jopa iloita sateesta ja laulaa.
from Yahoo! Answers: What do the birds do when it RAINS like crazy? I live in upstate new york and just moved here and there are so many many birds here especially where I live, the other day I saw a broken egg on the ground in the drive way from a [...show more link] Update: I know they get wet btw but was wondering if they did anything extra to [...show more link] Best Answer Well... it depends on the species of bird, for one. Some are more adapted for rain then others.
from Willem Wever: Waar blijven de vogels als het heel hard stormt? Bij hevige stormen zoekt een vogel de beschutting die bij hem past. Er zijn een aantal vogels die met storm wel vliegen. Maar bij een echte hevige storm schuilen [...]
from http://wenwen.sogou.com/ 为什么鸟儿下雨的时候在天上飞不会因为淋湿掉下来? 刚刚下很大的雨,却还看到有几只鸟一直在天上飞.为什么鸟儿下雨的时候在天上飞不会因为淋湿掉下来? 补充:有照片的加分
from speed guide forums: Where do birds go when it rains? Do they just sit in their trees as it rains getting drenched? Or do they seek shelter?
from Google books: Where Do All The Birds Go When It Rains? By Misty Hoopman
[Screen snippets begin to noticeably fade to white at this point.]
from vimeo: WHERE DO BIRDS GO WHEN IT RAINS? One young magpie will give its own story. Barring the thunder and heavy rain, all the sounds on this movie are from this one young maggie. Amazing
from Yahoo! Answers: Where do birds go during wind and rain storms? Where do birds go during wind and rain storms?
from Yahoo! Answers: Where do birds go when it rains? I mean, they can't keep dry in their nests...They have to go somewhere.
from Yahoo! Answers: Burung Dapat Bertahan Terbang Berapa Lama Disaat Hujan?
from vogel.info: Was machen Vögel bei schlechtem Wetter? Zunächst mal, was sie nicht machen: Sie verkriechen sich nicht etwa in ihr Nest, denn das Vogelnest dient der Brutpflege, es ist nicht etwa eine Wohnung. Es stellt sich aber ja auch die Frage, was eigentlich unter schlechtem Wetter zu verstehen ist: Es gibt Vögel, die leiden unter zuviel Sonne und[...]
from gutefrage.net: Wohin gehen Vögel? Hallo zusammen! Heute als es so richtige Gewitter gab, hab ich mir überlegt wohin alle Vögel verschwinden. Haben alle Vögel Nester in die sie sich zurückziehen können? [link to view complete question.]
from Yahoo! Answers: Where do birds go when it rains? Well, yesterday it was raining...I was bored so i started staring out the window, and i say a empty birds nest and i was wondering, where do birds go when it rains?
from Diolún Designs Blog: Where do Birds go when it rains or snows?
from The Andalusia Star-News: Where do birds go when it rains? I haven’t fed birds in my back yard for a long time, but I still enjoy the few I see perching on top of poles, an electric wire, tree branches, or scooting across the [...]
from Bird Ecology Study Group (blog): Where do birds go when it rains? And what do they do then? It has been raining on and off these few weeks and the birds have not been around. Have you ever wondered what happened to them when it
from Naver Matome: 【雑学】暴風雨の時、鳥はどこに避難してるの? 人間が歩くのも困難な暴風雨。その時、一番影響を受けるのは空を飛んでいる鳥達ですよね。彼らはどのように風雨を凌いでいるのか?ずーっと気になっていた事を調べてみました!
[At this point, at the bottom of the section, screen snippets are extremely faded.]
from The Daily Apple: Apple #431: Birds in the Rain
Forgot until late tonight that I meant to make a new post. Since I didn't leave [...]
from Yahoo! answers: Where does birds go when it rains?

[Third section - A bird on a wire fence.]
[A bird sits on a wire fence with no rain falling.]
[Zoomed in on the bird as it looks at a rain drop splashing on the fence wire.]
[Zoomed out on the bird looking at the rain as it increases in intensity.]
[The bird flies down to an small smart-phone-shaped object lying on the ground, as the rain increases in intensity even more.]
[The bird lands on the object, with puddles increasing in size around the object.]
[The bird pecks at the object, ostensibly typing.] W... H... E... R... E...   D... O...   B... I... R... D... S...

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Hehe, are we suggesting that "bird" may be a phase of dihydrogen monoxide? I like that. --Stg (talk) 05:11, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

I recommend we keep the answer out of the explain page since it wasn't included in the comic. Birds can google it themselves. 06:25, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Why are you so mean to poor birds? Do you know how hard is to type with beak? -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:08, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
It really is a pain. They have to hunt and peck. 12:25, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
Especially on a touch screen! 13:57, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
Really, they only have trouble with the newer capacitive touchscreens - the older resistive ones (used in e.g. Palm Pilot) were much easier to use with a beak-- Brettpeirce (talk) 20:08, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
The iron in pigeon beaks makes it a bit easier for them to use capacitive screens, but not much. --Okofish (talk) 21:07, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
Just one more thing that makes them man's best friend with rats, I mean wings with friends... umm words with friends... it's a bit too early for me... -- Brettpeirce (talk) 09:36, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

I added the thing about catcher in the rye, but now I think that might not be right.Cheeselover724 (talk) 06:28, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

I haven't read Catcher in the Rye, but I purely read it as Superman & Clark Kent are the same thing, implying that birds and rain are the same thing. --Pudder (talk) 08:34, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

"as Superman & Clark Kent are the same" if you see one you see both not one or the other. As for birds and rain: In Britain, they all tend to roost facing the approaching weather when fronts form that may bring rain. Similarly when the fronts form that look like the rain is ending they will be roosting in good viewpoints to observe whatever is likely to happen next. You will see them on trees, wires, chimneys and aerials all watching the weather. Flocks as flocks, families as families and solitary birds as such.Weatherlawyer (talk) 19:35, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

Cueball assumes it's a question common to all of internet-accessed humans, making it seem like a beautiful thing. In the end, it turns out those are actually helpless birds asking this question worldwide, not people. I'd advise you add a On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog reference. The ice/catcher in the rye connection is far fetched. Judging by the Clark/Superman comparison, Randall suggests that birds turn into the rain as part of the water/ice phases and not hide from it. Because Clark doesn't go when Superman arrives, he turns into Superman. Dulcis (talk) 08:01, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Actually, I think Clark will end up on bottom of the phone booth. Superman must assume that noone will steal his disguise while he will do the rescuing ... meanwhile, there is lot of water in birds, but also lot of other molecules, so the transformation wouldn't work. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:08, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
In older continuity, "Clark" (or at least his clothing) would get folded up, compressed and tucked into a pocket on the underside of the cape.... 16:36, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

the google query 08:14, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Birds can use the internet? Before we know it, they will start tweeting. Diszy (talk) 11:58, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

ICY what you did there -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:41, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
And then they'll move on to Facebeak, 15:11, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

How do we know that is a pokedex? It looks more like a tablet to me. 12:05, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

So for the transcript, I'm thinking until the full text in every screen snippet is transcribed and each source result website is identified, it will be technically incomplete - any commentary on this (?) -- Brettpeirce (talk) 12:43, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

While maybe technically incomplete, surely we have to be sensible, and take the decision to omit text which isn't really relevant to the comic. Take the top right screenshot as an exampe, I would argue that the following should be omitted: Top left word??, Search Replies, Previous Page, Next Page, social media share/like text, Username, Text in geen, UserID: 520655, United States.. --Pudder (talk) 14:19, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, as I believe I did when creating what is there right now, and as I summarized below at the same time you were writing your reply -- Brettpeirce (talk) 14:31, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
Alright, well, I did for the first 20 screen snippets what I think would be good to do for the remaining ones (find the source site and page, then quote what seems to be the pertinent question and answer text that is visible in the snippet, disregarding usernames, dates, categories and similar meta data). It could probably also be done for at least ten more with a bit more effort, but I don't wanna waste my time if the community just says "WAYY TOO MUCH! DELETE!!") -- Brettpeirce (talk) 14:29, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

I also kind of think that the transcript should have the links to the source sites (since they are screen snippets), while the explanation should have the translations for any non-english text and any needed explanation for differences in cultural context. Regardless, having links to the source sites seems unnecessary to have in BOTH places, but they're links, so... they don't take up any more room, I suppose... -- Brettpeirce (talk) 14:40, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Great job on the transcript. Personally I like the link to original source as you've done, though perhaps other would disagree. I'm tempted to say it should also be in the explanation, as that is where I assume others would expect that type of information to be. I'm actually quite impressed at what a quality page this is after only a matter of hours, especially given that it isn't the simplest comic. Images, tables, translations, original sources... Beautiful! --Pudder (talk) 15:42, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
welp, I've done all I think I can do - there's one more under the Japanese one that is almost definitely from a Yahoo! Answers site, but I can't make out enough of it to identify it positively, so, its identity might be lost to Randall's archive forever *sniffle* -- Brettpeirce (talk) 11:34, 16 October 2014 (UTC)
I could help out with the Dutch translation, and I could make a stub for the German one (It'd probably be wise to have a *real* German check that one though) 16:00, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

I love how this comic will inevitably increase the internet searches and queries for "Where do birds go when it rains." If this weren't the question that united us before, it certainly is now. XKCD making a difference! 18:24, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Not only will it increase the searches, but since it has a transcription of all of the other searches, it's the top result on Google today, too! -- Brettpeirce (talk) 11:34, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

The pale posting near the bottom that begins "Burung Dapat Bertahan...Hujan ?" is either Malay or Indonesian and means something like "Can birds survive...rain?" Taibhse (talk) 23:23, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

So here is the link: https://id.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101215231444AAAVxSM Taibhse (talk) 00:22, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

This search phrase will get a sky high Pigeon Rank 23:41, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Well, there's the explanation! -- Brettpeirce (talk) 09:38, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

The non-capitalization of the German nouns in the given example is perhaps caused by the input device. I can never write proper German on my Nokia cell phone, for example, as it only capitalizes after a period/full stop. Gearoid (talk) 10:57, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

Usually there is a shift-key type function somewhere - is this a smart phone? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 11:34, 16 October 2014 (UTC)
- and are you a smart user? 13:41, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
On some phones it is indeed a pain in the ass to capitalize mid-sentence words (as on mine), but I'm not aware of any where it's impossible to do so. Based upon that assumption it has to be classified as "laziness", I think. And as Gearoid said: "it" capitalizes. I'm quite sure you could do it manually by yourself in some way or another. 12:17, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

I don't know whether birds use Google, but they certainly .  ;-) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

One of the screenshots is from Fairfax Underground? I live in Fairfax County! (Not underground though.) :) Flarn2006 (talk) 23:12, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

This is all wrong! We know where we go when it rains, we just want to know where people think we go... 01:41, 18 October 2014 (UTC)

Has anyone seen a bird in rain? Show pic please! -- SilverMagpie (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)