Winter Fun Facts

  • Studies show that birds do not become dependent on bird feeders. Research studies on Black-capped Chickadees have shown that only 20-25% of its diet will come from using feeders, the rest still comes from natural sources...even in winter. It is reasonable to conclude this is true of other feeder birds and that 80% of their diet is still from the natural sources.
  • Have you noticed how ravenously the birds eat at your bird feeders, especially first thing in the morning and just before dusk? They are stoking their internal heater to get the day started and replenish fat reserves for another cold night.
  • The average bird in an average environment must forage about five hours per day to meet its energy requirements. In winter, they may have to forage longer for much-needed energy.
  • During cold weather chickadees have been found to need twenty times more food than they do in summer.
  • When the temperature falls below 10º F (-12ºC), chickadees with access to feeders have a higher winter survival rate of 69% versus a 37% survival rate for populations without access to feeders.
  • Lipids are the most concentrated energy source that a bird can consume.
  • Lipids are substances such as a fat (like suet), oil (found in seeds) or wax (usually from tree fruits).
  • Storage pools of lipids (fats reserves) are the primary energy supply that fuels a bird between meals, through cool winter nights and throughout migration.
  • Songbirds and other small passerines may use up to ¾ of their fat reserves in one night then replenish those fat reserves the next day. As with chickadees this can be as much as 10% of their body weight. Imagine a 200 lb person losing 20 lbs every night!
  • Small birds conserve energy overnight by decreasing their body temperature. It is called "controlled hypothermia" when their temperature is between 25-35˚C (77-95˚F). It is considered "torpor" when their body temperature is below 25˚C (77˚F).
  • Chickadees are able to perform a controlled hypothermia at night to drop their body temperature about 12 to 15°F (-11º to -9ºC) lower than their normal day-time temperature. This allows them to conserve about 25% of their energy every hour at freezing temperatures
  • Chickadees have excellent coping tactics for surviving harsh winter weather. They cache foods and remember where they are hidden, have dense winter coats, diligently find excellent, well-insulated roosting cavities and can perform a regulated hypothermia to conserve energy overnight.
  • As opposed to fats, carbohydrates are an essential form of energy for juncos, sparrows and other ground-feeding birds. They prefer to eat quantity over quality being able to pull useful energy and the nutrients they need from carbohydrates. They gobble up large quantities of high-carb foods and sit in protective cover and digest.

Can You Match These Animal Facts?

A Matching Game

1. I grow 2 layers of fur to keep me warm

2. I fly south to warmer places.

3. I hide under leaves, rocks, or tree bark.

4. I sleep in a cozy burrow until spring. 

5. I fluff my feathers like a big puffy coat.

6. I hold my breath and stay under water all winter.

___ Painted Turtle   ___ Centipede   ___ Deer

___ Chickadee   ___ Hummingbird   ___ Groundhog

ANSWERS: 1. Deer, 2. Hummingbird, 3. Centipede, 4. Groundhog, 5. Chickadee, 6. Painted Turtle

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