Earth Calendar for February 12th and February 13th

Feb 12, 2014

Do you ever wonder how the tiny birds hopping around your backyard and neighborhood stay warm during the winter?

Weighing in at 10-25 grams – the weight of a few nickels – birds hardly seem like they’re fit for frigid temperatures. But winter residents in chilly parts of the U.S. have some smart strategies for surviving the cold.  They fill up on fat and calories. As far as a bird is concerned, calorie-rich and fatty foods like sunflower seeds, nuts and suet are the best for providing energy to stay warm.  Birds need reliable water sources in winter months. Melting snow and ice for water uses up calories and body heat, so finding a reliable source of fresh, clean water is key. Heated bird baths make life much easier during winter.  Evergreen trees, brush piles, birdhouses and roost boxes provide a respite from wind and cold and when we see birds fluff their feathers they are turning up the furnace. Feathers help trap heat close to a bird’s body to maintain warmth.  Some birds can even enter “regulated hypothermia” to reduce calorie burn and conserve energy during cold weather. Black-capped chickadees – familiar winter feeder visitors – can drop their body temperature by as much as 14 degrees Fahrenheit at night! They also shiver to generate heat, which gets trapped in those fluffy feathers.
Humans can give feathered friends a hand this winter by adding food and water sources to yards, then sit back and enjoy some winter bird watching. Providing a variety of feeders and foods will attract different species of birds – try suet, cracked corn, seeds and nuts. Once a few birds find your feast, others will likely follow. Providing a water source will also attract birds and place in a sunny area so it is less likely to freeze over. Use a heated bird bath or place a bath in a sunny area where it’s less likely to freeze over. Don’t forget to clean feeders and baths regularly to prevent spreading disease, and remove old, wet seed that can breed bacteria. Get more winter birding tips from National Wildlife Federation.

On Our Calendar:  It’s maple sugaring time! Bring your family and celebrate the awakening of the trees as they prepare for spring with the very traditional craft of making maple syrup. Maple sugar treats, including waffles, ice cream and cotton candy will be available for a small fee. Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve at Ellenwood Nature Barn February 22nd and 23rd, Noon to 5:00 pm.  More information at the website.