December 19, 2009 [LINK / comment]

How do birds survive a blizzard?

If you think about what little protection they get from their feathers, it really is a miracle that wild birds manage to live through deep freezes and major snowstorms that cover up their regular food sources. Nowadays birds that live near populated areas can count on "handouts" to get by during the bleakest days of winter, but what about a few hundred years ago? Back then, not many humans had enough spare money or time to provide food for birds, so the idea probably didn't even occur to them. Anyway, the simple answer to "How do those birds survive this weather?" is high-caloric intake.

Needless to say, we have had plenty of bird traffic out back today, with nearly two feet of snow on the ground -- and more is falling! Besides Cardinals (a male is shown here), we have had many Juncos, a few White-throated sparrows, as well as one each of House finch, Mourning dove, Song sparrow, House sparrow, Blue jay, and Red-bellied woodpecker. No Chickadees or Titmice, however. The suet feeder fell off the hook hanging from the tree, and is now buried beneath the snow. While shoveling the snow this afternoon, I spotted a single Turkey vulture flying around, but I doubt that it was able to find much road-kill food in these white-out conditions. This photo is a zoomed-in vertical version of a photo that I posted on Facebook earlier today:

Cardinal at feeder in snow

A male Cardinal gets much-needed sustenance at the feeder out back, while the snow keeps falling. Roll the mouse over this photo to see some indoor "snow birds." smile

The classic "snow bird" that migrates to these parts from the northern latitudes and upper altitudes every autumn: a Dark-eyed Junco. (Taken Nov. 27)