Researchers want to know about your livestock’s behavior from the 2024 solar eclipse

The solar eclipse has captivated the imagination of a good swath of rural Ohio this year, but a certain group of scientists are looking to livestock owners to help make hay of the unique event.

This year, the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is wanting help observing and recording livestock, poultry, pet and wildlife behavior. 

“There is a lot of research being done these days using the general public to get input from a larger area and diversity,” said Jacqueline Jacob, UK Department of Animal and Food Sciences agricultural extension project manager. “This survey builds off that current trend.” 

UK’s current initiative seeks observers who have witnessed changes – or even no fluctuations – in animal behavior including:  

  • Various types of behavior changes, such as deviations in feeding, sleeping, movement, vocalizations (e.g., singing or mooing) 
  • Productivity declines 
  • Indications of perplexity among other behavioral variations 

These collected observations from diverse areas and animal species will be combined into a report that can then be distributed to all participants. 

Solar eclipse historical impact on animals 

Historical accounts suggest that solar eclipses can influence the behavior of birds, mammals, insects and even plants. Often, these observations were made by astronomers whose view of the eclipse was obscured by clouds, allowing them to focus on the animals nearby instead. A wide range of eclipse-related behaviors have been seen over time: 

  • One of the first documented behavioral changes dates to a complete eclipse in 1544, when birds stopped singing.  
  • During one eclipse, fish in a hatchery stopped feeding and sank to the bottom, whereas Golden Carp in a zoo surfaced to feed, mirroring their nightly behavior.  
  • Toads, generally nocturnal, were observed actively searching for insects and worms during an eclipse.  
  • At some zoos, painted turtles abandoned their sunning boards in search of protection, similar to their sunset pattern. 
  • Bird behaviors during solar eclipses are particularly varied, with birds flying into houses, roosters crowing early, hens preparing to roost and pigeons ceasing to feed. Total solar eclipses appear to have a similar impact on domestic poultry, with birds mistaking them for nightfall and settling down early.  
  • Similar “nighttime” behaviors have been observed with domestic horses, sheep and cattle. 

Citizen involvement in this initiative will help researchers better understand animal behavior and highlight the complex relationships between cosmic occurrences and terrestrial life. 

Visit to participate. 

For questions, contact Jacqueline Jacob, Ag Extension Project Manager in Martin-Gatton CAFE Department of Animal and Food Sciences, at 

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