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How do birds survive winter and snow storms?

Birds survive winter; You have probably noticed when you go for a walk in the winter that everything is much calmer or quieter

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
How do birds survive winter and snow storms?

You have probably noticed when you go for a walk in the winter that everything is much calmer or quieter and this is largely due to the fact that many birds hide underground, migrate or simply change colour to survive the cold temperatures.

Migration, for example, is the alternative that many birds find to escape the winter, from north to south, fleeing the cold.

In winter, many birds gather in groups to survive. Your survival will be put to the test, since finding food becomes difficult.

Shelter at hand

When the weather is inclement, birds often seek refuge in microhabitats, such as within thick hedges or on the side of trees that are protected from the wind. In this case, being small has its advantages. 

How Birds survive winter. Bold footsteps sink into the thickness of the snow. Source: Creative Commons Zero - CC0

Hiding in these places can protect them from the wind, rain and even the cold (closer to the ground the temperature is higher). Cavity-nesting birds, including woodpeckers, bowers, and chickadees, may also hide in holes in your trees.

Some birds even travel several miles in search of suitable shelter and secure food sources. 

In winter, dense evergreens, spruce, or juniper offer better protection than the leafless branches of deciduous plants. The leaves help keep the ground under the pine trees clear of snow and also provide a place for birds to forage.

How does winter affect birds?

Birds, as warm-blooded animals, are prepared to maintain their activity despite low temperatures. In addition, the feathers that cover their body are excellent thermal insulators, as people know when we protect ourselves from the cold with a coat or a feather duvet.

However, both the cold and the snow can have an indirect but very detrimental effect on them, by preventing them from accessing their food. 

How Birds survive winter (Birds Robin). Source: Needpix.com

On the one hand, the cold makes insects disappear, for this reason, most of the insectivorous birds in our territory are migratory and are now in Africa. 

The snow that covers the ground hides the seeds that these animals need to feed themselves.

What do the birds do?

Bold footsteps sink into the thickness of the snow. Sidewalks, hedges, gardens, low walls, paths, trees and the open countryside are hidden under a beautiful soft white blanket. 

Beautiful and terrible at the same time, since many of our birds will not survive. They face the extreme challenge of surviving each day.

Birds present their own survival strategy. But there are some problems arise:

  • To maintain that body heat, especially at night when temperatures are minimal, birds must eat daily to survive. The colder it is, the more food they require, since they need more fuel to generate more energy in the form of heat.
  • Birds hardly accumulate body fat, since excess fat would reduce their agility and they would become too easy prey for their predators. 
  • Unlike many other animals, such as mammals, they do not have that thick coat of insulating fat from which they can also burn energy.
  • As practically everything is covered in thick layers of snow and ice, it is very difficult for them to find the daily food they need (grains, seeds, invertebrates, small sprouts), as it remains buried and inaccessible.

Can Birds fly around in the snow?

Yes, birds can fly in the snow, but not all. The most common birds that can fly in snowstorms are Red and White-winged Crossbills, Goshawks, Snow Buntings, Snow Geese, Bohemian Waxwings, Snowy Owls, Rosy Finches, etc.

What are the species of birds that suffer the most from winter and cold?

The birds that are most sensitive to the effects of winter are migratory birds since they are those that are going to be left without their food due to cold or snow. 

When extremely adverse weather conditions occur, such as heavy snowfall or abnormally low temperatures, it is generally the smaller birds that can pay a higher price.

Smaller birds have bodies that may not weigh ten grams, have little thermal inertia and accumulate very few energy reserves, therefore, if they deplete these reserves due to not having found enough food for the day, they can die of hypothermia overnight.


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