When the winds are hollowing, snow flakes are falling and temperatures are dropping below freezing at night, how do birds stay warm in the winter? Basically birds are built for it, with their feathers! Though we may enjoy the variety of colors, feathers play a crucial to birds staying warm in the winter. Feathers are only found in avian species and are grouped into seven categories based on form and where they are found on the birds body. Much like us layering up, the birds feathers hold in body heat and act like a layer of insulation to protect them from rain and wind. Tiny bristle protect their eyes and face, a nice fluff along the foot and face increases the feathers effectiveness. Birds also use a movement, similar to us shivering but without the trembling we experience, by contracting opposing muscle groups to generate heat. Did you know that the temperature of a bird is 105 degree F, that's pretty hard to keep in the middle of winter. But birds cope in a couple of different ways, their circulatory system adjust to keep their internal organs warmed allowing the temperature in their feet temperature to fall. Think of geese, sea gulls and other birds standing on ice. Another is "regulated hypothermia", some birds lower their body temperature at night. Birds also huddle up, remember the saying safety in numbers but with extra heat. Birds that might roost alone will gather in groups when nighttime temperatures drop. The will find a sleeping space in pretty much any protected spot, nesting boxes, hanging planter pots, roof leaves, brush piles, or a whole drilled in the snow by a woodpecker or grouse does the trick. Huddling up serves as a major energy saver on cold winter nights. So for our year-round resident birds and all in our cold climate, birds seem to have biological mechanism along with social behaviors to keep themselves warm and actually thrive. So don't forget to feed your birds, you will help them survive the winter months.
FUN FACT- To keep warm birds will move to the leeward side of a tree during cold windy days.
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North Haven Garden Club is a member of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut Inc., New England Garden Clubs Inc., and The National Garden Clubs Inc.
Article by Cindy Golia