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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

North Texas birds' adaptations to cold weather


As long as they can get enough food, water and shelter, north Texas’ wild birds have evolved to survive a cold spell fairly well. Since birds obviously need to stay light enough to fly, they can’t just pack on a heavy layer of insulating fat for the winter like most animals do. They’ve developed other adaptations for cold-weather living.

  • At night, their body temperature drops by as much as 20 degrees, so they can conserve what little fat preserves they have.
  • In winter, they naturally grow about 29% more feathers, for extra insulation.
  • They eat high-energy food voraciously after a cold night, which is why feeders are usually busiest first thing in the morning.

       Help them by providing extra food in cold periods. And by keeping birdbaths full of clean water (only clean feathers will trap insulating air).

Despite these measures, many small songbirds don’t make it through cold weather. The possibility of death by dehydration, starvation or exposure is always facing them. Birds brighten our short, gray days just by being there, and often singing through it all. Helping them is the least we can do in return.

Help me with a dilemma please. I've been mingling bird trivia and north Texas landscaping tips together in this blog. And I'll keep mingling the two since there's clearly a relationship. But I need to know, from you, which should predominate.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Migrating birds have biological clocks

Scissortailed Flycatcher
Birds have biological clocks telling them things like when to migrate. This "clock", based on sun angles, overides everything else, even food availability and local weather. Although many birds migrate at night, some migrate by day. They use a related, internal “sun compass” to keep them traveling in the right direction. The internal clock also measures day-length.  The changing length of daylight tells all birds when to begin their migration flights. Some species are migrating now, others won't migrate for weeks. Nighttime migrators use the stars’ positions. These don't change at all [or only minutely] over several bird-lifetimes. And, lest we forget, our sun is a star, too.

Conversely, the birds depend on the plants at their destination for their food supply. Whether these plants are in bloom, withered, under water, snow-covered or failed to set seed the past year, due to changing climate, is another matter.

Crape Myrtles are being pruned as if it were 1800
About now, Crape Myrtles are being “pruned” drastically for some reason, pushing them near death. After being severly pruned, they will put most of their energy into healing the wound, and will unquestionably produce fewer flowers and are far more prone to disease. Anyone who says different hasn't been following nationwide horticultural research for the past decade.

This outdated pruning style is totally unnecessary. I have no idea why the habit didn’t fade away along with alchemy and human sacrifice. It benefits nobody except whoever has the nerve to charge you for it. Crape Myrtles grow far better if only the old seed pods are removed or if they’re just left 100% alone