Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How do birds make it through winter?

It has been a mild-ish January. February has been 'shock and awe.' I was not surprised to see our Robin in January. I think this is the same little one that hung around last year. Many people pose the question. It truly depends upon where you are, if there are fruits on the trees, such as crabapples, hawthorn, holly, juniper and sumac.

How do birds make it through winters?

  1. Some migrate, of course. Those are the birds who eat only insects. 
    Feb. 14, 2016
  2. They congregate in flocks in winter, except for our fat dude (right)! They are more able to evade predators when there are more birds to keep watch. Our hawks are as hungry as our other birds!
  3. They eat to feed their metabolism, it keeps them warm. They shiver, just like mammals. 
  4. They rest, after eating, and puff up their downy feathers for insulation.
  5. They preen, since wet feathers conducts the cold, they put an oily substance on their feathers to keep out the moisture.
  6. Birds are smart enough to stay out of the cold winds. They sit in the sun, out of the wind.
  7. They can find a cavity in which to hold up.
  8. They sleep standing on one foot, tucking the other up under their downy feathers.
  9. They save energy. They refrain from refrains  ♫♬ .  They don't sing as much, or defend territories, or build nests. I noticed, in a strange sudden melt in January, that the birds were singing.
  10. They also have special physiological make-ups, like duck feet.
I commented on how it looks so cold seeing the mallards sitting on the ice, and my geek son-in-law (who knew?) told me that they have specially designed feet and legs to keep them warm.

The veins and arteries exchange heat. The venous blood, as it returns from the feet, is heated by the arterial blood flowing south. Unlike humans, who lose heat from our extremities and can suffer frostbite (lack of circulation in face, feet and hands) the duck's feet do not lose heat and their core temperatures are not affected by cold feet.

Over the past 10 years, robins have been reported in January in every U.S. state, except Hawaii, (see map) and in all of the southern provinces of Canada.

My blog buddies in more northerly and western province will attest to their presence or absence. There are pockets.

The birdbath has been quite fun. The mourning dove didn't get the memo. It had its tail in the water!
On a wetland walk, I spotted my hawk. He didn't like my eagle-eye on him!


eileeninmd said...

Good morning, great post and images. Happy Tuesday, enjoy your day! I see Robins year round here. Happy Tuesday, enjoy your day!

Olga Hebert said...

Wonderful pictures of birds in winter.

Out To Pasture said...

So glad that many of our birds do stay and keep us company in these cold months. We are getting a good old fashioned snow storm in Ottawa South today. My feeder birds are storming the feeders.

Powell River Books said...

I'm starting to hear morning birds in town. We'll be home at the cabin in two days. Hope we have some there too. - Margy

Red said...

Hey, I finally found this post again. Now what was I going to say? I think we've always had to odd bird here for the winter like the robin but it's becoming more common

William Kendall said...

A whole lot of birds around. Today in these parts they're keeping to cover.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Well of course, in UK, the robin is THE winter bird!!! It's true what you say about the singing though... we had one sunny day at the weekend, even verging on (shhh) warm and the birds were hollering... Not the last two days though. Sigh.... YAM xx
ps- have been doing some catch-up watching too!

Cynthia said...

That's interesting about duck's feet. I wonder if egrets and herons have the same structure. We see them out in the marsh in the coldest weather when the water is nearly freezing and wonder how they can stand it. I will have to look that up.
We just participated in Cornell University's Backyard Bird Count last weekend. Of course, we have seen all the "good" birds today when we can't count them!