Birds have many built-in strategies for surviving the cold days of winter. And there are also many things we can do in our wildlife gardens to help winter birds. It’s 15 degrees outside. The Polar Vortex has gripped the country in frigid temperatures from New England to some unexpected places this year. Texas, Georgia, and even Florida have experienced record low temperatures and snow.
So how do the winter birds stay warm?
Bird feathers are remarkable for their insulating properties (think of that nice warm down jacket you wear when you venture outside in this extreme cold…
Many birds migrate to more southern and warmer climates, not as much because of the cold, but their food supply is much more available during the winter months. There are no insects hanging around my Pennsylvania wildlife garden, so many songbirds have flown to places where more food is available.
Birds have several strategies for staying warm in the winter, including:
Fluffing up their feathers: Birds can trap more air and insulate their bodies by fluffing up their feathers. This helps to reduce heat loss and maintain body temperature.
Roosting in flocks: Birds often roost in large flocks during the winter, huddling together to share body heat. This is especially common in species that are not migratory, such as pigeons and sparrows.
Using body fat: Many birds build up a reserve of body fat before the winter, which they can then use as a source of energy and insulation to help keep warm.
Maintaining active metabolism: Some birds are able to maintain an active metabolism during the winter, which generates heat and helps keep them warm. For example, chickadees and other small birds are able to generate enough heat to survive even in very cold temperatures.
Building nests or roosts: Some bird species build nests or roosts that are well-insulated and provide protection from the elements. For example, woodpeckers will often excavate cavities in trees that they can use for roosting in the winter.
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