How birds stay warm in the extreme cold

As winter weather sets in all throughout eastern Ontario, backyard birdwatchers may peer outside and see little “fluffballs” resting on branches. You’re bearing witness to one of their cold-weather survival strategies. Underneath a bird’s contour adornment lay plumulaceous down feathers. These down feathers are excellent at trapping warm air mass. Birds “puff” their contour and down feathers up, creating a self-contained heat island; the feathers are used to trap the bird’s body heat. Amazingly, it has been shown that a mere half-inch of feathers (on a Black-capped Chickadee for this example) can result in a difference of 50 degrees Celsius between the bird’s bare skin and the outer surface of its feathers!

Have a great week and keep those feeders filled 

Photo: A male House Finch surviving -38 Celsius temperatures the best it can in my parents’ yard in Ottawa, Ontario. 21 January 2019.