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Keeping Your Birds From Freezing In Winter Storms

Posted Saturday 12th December 2009 at 16:09 by 13Mockingbirds
Winter roared in with vengeance this morning. Living in the Western New York region all my life, snow seldom stops the daily grind from continuing. Basically we just go on our ways leaving a little extra drive time and some extra time to shovel the driveway out, three or four times. The blizzard like conditions would have shut down most areas, but not here.

Temperatures dropped very quickly, just yesterday we had 40 degree temperatures and a light rain. Seeing my rabbit in the yard reminded me I need to fill the birdfeeders before the snow came. Preparing for the storm I filled the birdfeeders knowing what was coming would be a very hard shock on all my songbirds that remain in the area. Luckily I had ordered new suet cakes from a local company I found called I like to hang suet for the colder days when the birdfeeder would not be enough. The fat in suet, and the peanut butter tends to offer the additional calories vital in extreme temperatures. When I arrived home this evening I was not surprised to see the birdfeeder almost empty and little birdie footprints in the snow going up to my front door. Sometime today during the break in the 60 mile an hour winds, blizzard-like conditions and the lake effect snow the birds ventured out to get a bite to eat from the birdfeeder and suet cake snacks.

Can Birds Get Frostbite?

When the winds howl and the artic temperatures make the air feel like -5° it can be difficult for people to be outdoors. Wind speed literally blows the heat right off of the body. Without a doubt it is very difficult for our feathered friends. I wondered if birds could get frostbite. Especially their little feet. According to the University of Illinois Extension “All birds have the ability to reduce heat loss by restricting the flow of warm blood into their legs and feet. Because their legs are mostly scales, sinews, and bones, there's little to freeze. The arteries and veins in a bird's legs are right next to each other, so the warmth from the arteries warms up the blood in the veins before it re-enters the body, thus the bird's body stays warm.”

Being a bird owner I know that birds of almost all types puff out their feathers to retain heat. Air and heat remain trapped between the down and the outer feathers. According to the Cornell University, birds have a “body temperature of about 104°”#, feather fluffing helps increase the amount of heat that surrounds the body, almost like a natural blanket. The downside is this feat requires burning many calories. As temperature decreases and weather turns bad it is very important that our feathered friends have the basics to ensure their survival. This is especially true in severe conditions like what most of us in the United States have experienced the last few days. Besides shelter and water it is important to offer high calorie seed mixtures on a regular basis in your birdfeeder. This helps to supplement food sources needed from the lack of native vegetation and insects your regional birds would otherwise enjoy. You should not let your birdfeeders go empty once you start filling them. Once birds discover your birdfeeders they will return regularly. You can make the area attractive to the birds by offering water sources and hiding habitats.

The type of seeds or foods you decided to add to your birdfeeder depends on what type of birds are attracted to your yard. A carefully planned mixture can attract birds native to your area but not usually seen in your yard. During the growing season I plant butterfly friendly plants and offer several forms of natural berries that attract Songbirds, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Woodpeckers. In the winter I like to use suet as a supplement to help my birds fend off the cold. How many suet cakes I hang depends on the overall weather conditions. I was fortunate to find a local company in my region called Wild Bird Supplies that offers 24 types of suet cakes. I have to admit the suet looked delicious enough I wanted to try some myself. offers high calorie mixtures like Peanut Suet, Berry Blast and Health Nut and Berry Suet Cake. I bought three different types of suet to see which was best. It seems my birds found them all yummy!

Keeping a steady supply of suet and a filled birdfeeder can mean the difference between life and death for our feathered friends during winter storms.

University of Illinois Extension Coles County Wild Things

Cornell Center for Materials Research Birds have several tricks to keep their legs from freezing
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