Dandy Designs
How Birds Keep from Freezing
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Shiver me feathers.


Many kinds of birds migrate to warmer climates during winter. However, there are many others like cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches and chickadees who spend their winters in climates where the temperature often goes below zero. How do they survive in the cold?

The more we study the way birds are able to survive in extreme cold the more we see the wisdom of design. Birds produce 25-30 percent more feathers in the winter than they have in the summer just as humans add more clothing for the cold. Like humans, birds shiver in the cold to generate heat. Birds who live in cold climates waterproof their feathers with body oils so that the inside feathers stay dry to effectively insulate their bodies. Birds also fluff their plumage in the cold weather to provide air spaces. They are able to produce a very high “R-value” in this way with very little space and weight.

Cold weather birds are also able to put themselves into a state of hypothermia. In this condition the heartbeat of the bird is slowed and the body temperature drops. The bird goes into a subconscious state and is able to conserve energy to endure extremely cold temperatures. Some birds also huddle together for warmth.

Some birds such as finches, grosbeaks, pheasants and grouse can take in seeds just before dark and slowly digest them to supply energy through the cold night. It’s kind of like putting a big log on the fire before going to bed to provide heat through the long, cold winter night.

The survival features seen in the winter birds are eloquent demonstrations of design.



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