Categorized | Using Nature

Where are the Birds?


The landscape is a frozen sheet of white. The wind is biting at my face mercilessly. I can’t help but wonder where the birds are hiding.

In my fluffy big parka and layers I can only stand but little of the this icy chill. What does a little Chickadee do to survive?

They eat and pack away seeds and scraps like fiends when it is warm. When the weather gets colder they need a lot of food energy and body fat to create the heat they will need. I know that they are hidden from the weather in little nooks and cavities and branches of trees. storm,birds,heart,canning, 4 ing. bars 023

They have down under their feathers and they fluff things up underneath and on top spread out their feathers as a sort of impenetrable wind-break. They can put one foot up into this protection while standing or can sit down overtop of them to keep them warm or even tuck their head down into a shoulder. They don’t actually need much warmth for their feet as we do because they are covered in scales which, like our hair and nails, are not living tissue. Birds can control the temperature of their feet and legs, constricting flow to prevent heat loss from their extremities.

They also have an adaptation called counter current exchange in which the arteries containing warm blood flowing out to the legs and feet are close to the veins returning cold blood from the extremities. The warm blood heats the cold blood returning to the heart so that their core temperature isn’t reduced. They also shiver like we do to stay warm. Activity increases warmth.

On the coldest -40F day of winter I have seen a Raven out flying. The activity of flying is giving them enough calorie-burning heat that they can expose the undersides of their wings without freezing up like an icicle! Birds are actually called ‘warm-blooded”. There natural temperature is higher than ours to begin with.

I’m not. I’m worse than cold-blooded. If I planned to go into hibernation I’d say good-bye first.storm,birds,heart,canning, 4 ing. bars 022

Some birds can lower their core temperature as in  hibernation for a considerable length of time to conserve their required energy too. Some dive into the snow and use it as an insulating blanket. When it gets warm again they literally just pop out of the snow.

So the Eskimos must have watched the birds and that’s why they make igloos. As cold as snow is, it’s worse without it if you need a cover to survive the elements.

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5 Responses to “Where are the Birds?”

  1. Mike says:

    Fascinating… guess I’m a little smarter today than I was yesterday.

    • sherry says:

      Always so much to know… and we aren’t even starting to learn. I think I’ll need another life after this one.

  2. Wendy says:

    My kids dive into the snow with their friends in t-shirts and shorts – but the howls and shivering tell it all! They run back to the house and jump into a hot tub.

    Birds are amazing. They remind us how fragile we are. And this frozen northern living is a humbling experience. The efficiency of animals in this country to produce heat and conserve it is yet another wonder of nature; I am in awe.

    And I am heading to the kitchen to bake something for the excuse to justify more energy consumption. I can feed the family and get a side benefit and have a warm (warmish) chair to sit in, or I might scrub every nook and cranny and this should stoke the burners and keep me from going icicle.

  3. Naomi says:

    I marvel at how intuitive nature is! We can learn so much from it.
    When I stay indoors all winter, I hate winter. When I actually get warmly dressed and go out, I love it. This winter, I hate it, but that is way more my fault than winter’s because I just haven’t found many chances to get out.
    This winter, we got record breaking dumps of snow, leaving our towns and cities with no place to put it all. The good thing about snow that few seem to realize is that it’s an amazing insulator for plants and animals. This makes a big difference to what plants we can grow here, too. I didn’t have to worry about all my new trees this winter because they were all buried deep under the snow.

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