Backyard Chirper

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Birds may need extra help in freezing weather

With storms raging across the country and frigid weather expected to continue, birds stranded in the freezing cold may need some extra help to brave the harsh winter.

To most birds the actual cold weather is not a problem. Birds have layers of feathers that act as insulation to trap heat so the cold doesn’t bother them. Other birds have unique systems to ensure they survive extreme weather.

For example, Jerry Hope, a bird enthusiast and member of the Kane County Audubon Society, was recently quoted in the Beacon News that he’s seen birds huddle together in his cluster of pine trees to warm up :

“They will rotate places — the birds in the middle of the bundle will take turns sitting on the outside. As many as 30 birds will cuddle together to stay warm during severe cold weather. They hunker down and won’t leave until the storm is over,” Hope said.

What makes severe weather potentially harmful for birds is the lack of food, water and shelter. During icy temperatures, regular bird baths and lakes freeze over making drinking water scarce. Drinking and bathing in water is an important routine for birds to do on a daily basis so they can suffer when water is not available Similarly, deep snow can make food and shelter significantly harder to find.

There have been reports of turkeys going into people’s backyards in search of food and resources, which has been difficult to find because of the snowfall.

To help wild birds during inclement weather, heated bird baths are an easy way to ensure they have water even when the temperatures are below freezing. Refilling bird feeders also provides birds with nourishment and energy, and buying birdhouses will give them a place to seek shelter from the cold.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

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