On any given afternoon, the Nashville Zoo’s lorikeet habitat is a symphony of chirps and squawks. The green, blue and red parrots zip around their enclosure, looking for visitors to perch on.
But on August 21st, at 1:27 p.m., bird keeper Ashley Gwaltney isn’t quite sure what they’ll sound like.
That’s when a total solar eclipse makes a path across Nashville, and experts aren’t quite sure how animals will react to the sudden darkness. But the Nashville Zoo will be paying close attention — observing its animals and asking visitors to help gather sound and images of how they respond and share it on social media.
“I really think they won’t even notice until it starts to get quite dark,” Gwaltney says. “And then we might get a little bit of quieting down. Or they could also get louder because they’re like — what is going on? And they start to yell and talk to each other.”
How various animals will react during the total eclipse’s two minutes of darkness is something the zoo has been thinking about for an entire year. Marketing director Jim Bartoo says there is hardly any research. But what they’ve found suggests animals will likely be confused into thinking it’s night time.
“The crickets you hear at night, the frogs you hear coming out at night, those are the kinds of things we’ll be listening for as well,” he says. “Owls, will owls be making their noises as it gets darker? We just don’t know.”
Bartoo says the total eclipse could also make fireflies appear, and cause spiders to dismantle their webs. Animals that graze might stop eating, and primates could join us humans, and gaze skyward, marveling at the city’s grandest celestial event in a century.