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Saturday, December 7, 2013

How birds stay warm in winter; the "flying tennis ball"

American Robin
     To me, birds look something like flying tennis balls on cold days.  That's partly because birds’ winter plumage contains roughly twice the number of feathers as their summer plumage.

Clearly, they need plenty of good food from you - since almost all of their normal food is covered up. This produces fat and energy to keep warm.

It's also because they fluff up their feathers to trap little pockets of air, which further insulate their bodies. They can only do this if the have access to clean water in cold weather. The actual bath may only take a few seconds but it can be lifesaving. 

they’re built to peck wood      Woodpeckers have thick sculls, outside of which is another shell. In between is a light shock-absorbing sponge-like layer of tiny hollow chambers (sort of like bubble-wrap)between the outer shell and the skull.  So, NO, they don’t get headaches when they peck.
They do NOT damage trees although it may look like they do. The trees they peck on are already in poor health. Their poor health makes the wood softer and any sap is sweeter. These factors, in turn, attract insects (often borers and carpenter ants). This is what Woodpeckers are after, not the tree itself!  Woodpeckers are “cavity nesters”, living in birdhouses or holes in dead trees (the only time they'll peck at wood directly), so they have no need for camouflage.

Please heed this tweet I received:   Feed me!   It's cold out!

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

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