Many birds, including robins and Canadian geese, migrate to warmer climates for the winter. But lots of birds remain behind. Staying put has its advantages. The birds don’t have to fight for their territory in the spring.
Nor do they have to risk the dangers of migration. Still, surviving the winter can be tough. Birds have developed some clever strategies for dealing with winter cold.
- Sparrows huddle together under pine boughs or bushy plants. They tuck their heads and feet in to stay warm.
- Cardinals puff into balls to keep warm.
- Geese and grouse grow an extra layer of feathers – imagine a heavy down feather coat.
- Chickadees and finches spend a lot of time eating during mild winter weather. The extra fat helps keep them warm.
- Chickadees and other small birds shiver to generate heat.
- Some birds can move most of the blood in their body to their vital organs, keeping their hearts, lungs, and kidneys warm while their feet and wings get cold.
- Birds, like humans, have a body temperature that remains fairly constant – around 106 degrees. But hummingbirds can drop their body temperature to almost that of the surrounding air. Hummingbirds go into a state of “torpor” at night as their body temperature plummets.
- Other birds go into a state called “regulated hypothermia.” Their body temperatures decrease as much as 22 degrees.
- Territory: a bird’s home and feeding area
- Vital organs: those organs necessarily for life, such as the heart and lungs
- Plummet: rapidly drop
Questions and Answers
Question: How can I help birds during the winter?
Answer: One of the best things you can do is put up a bird feeder with the type of bird food recommended for the birds in your area. A pan of water is also helpful.
Learn how to make homemade bird feeder.