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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why do birds puff up in cold weather?

Carolina Chickadee, puffed up
In cold weather they can look like tennis balls with wings sometimes! It just means they’re trying to keep warm. When a bird puffs up, or plumps up, he’s actually conserving warmth by raising up his feathers, fluffing and separating them, then bringing them back into place - except with lots of tiny air pockets between the feathers and the bird’s body.  This trapped air increases insulation for extra warmth, and the trapped air is is kept warm by the bird's body heat.

If you have a birdbath, remember that only clean feathers fluff up properly. If a bird has dirty feathers, inclement weather affects him greatly. So, even in winter, birds need a clean, handy birdbath. In very cold weather, the actual bath only takes only a second or two.

Lots of birds, however, hang around a birdbath a lot, to get multiple baths and sips of water. In freezing weather I'll pour hot water in ours to keep it from icing over.



Fox Sparrow
Double-scratching birds     In the winter, many birds forage for food by scratching through the leaf litter on the ground. In north Texas, you’ll see Juncos, Towhees, most blackbirds, many kinds of native Sparrows, and others doing this. Watch closely; actually the birds hop forward by moving both legs forward at the same time, then backwards a little if there’s snow covering the ground. This double-scratching does an excellent job of locating food.



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