Although most birds migrate south for the winter, some species of birds stay behind to endure. In these extreme weather conditions, we might worry about the winter birds but Todd Nivens, executive director for the Waskasoo environmental education society doesn’t believe we have any cause to worry because they birds that remain are well-equipped to handle the cold.
“They’re just puffing their feathers up a little bit and trapping some air to be warmed between their feathers and their body. Their metabolism is so fast. They generate a ton of heat. So the metabolism is just going so fast that they are just little furnaces.”
Additionally, birds stay warm by increasing food intake. Woodpeckers are searching for larva in the trees and hunting birds are scouring the prairies for mice and other small rodents. We might think that food sources become dire in this kind of cold, but that is simply not the case.
“It would be a scarcity of food that would become the bigger issue. If the colder temperatures started to have an adverse effect on the little subnivean mammals like the little mice and voles that are active under the snow that would become an issue for owls. If woodpeckers were all of the sudden unable to find larva and insects underneath tree bark, that would be an issue. If chickadees were to eat every mountain ash berry off of the trees and run out of those food sources, then that would be an issue. The reality is that everyone is probably still okay.”
That being said, we still might like to keep the birds around our homes with the use of bird feeders, or perhaps we just want to give them a little snack now and then.
“The beautiful thing is that human instinct is to help,” says Nivens, “So people that want to help they can make sure that they got suet in their suet feeders for things like woodpeckers. They can make sure that their bird feeders are filled with mostly black oil sunflower seeds.”
This time of year, the birds that want the specialty feed have already flown south and the birds that remain require a high-fat diet to stay warm and thriving.
The good news is that we don’t have to worry about the birds; they are better equipped for the cold than people are but hopefully, that doesn’t stop people from filling their feeders every now and then.