Thursday, January 18, 2018

Winter Birds

"Don't shoot, I'm a bird!"- REK
At lunch today we were talking about which birds win at the battles over our bird feeders.  Aside from the long-tailed not-a-bird that we yell at, there is a pecking order with the red-bellied woodpecker on top and our poor Carolina chickadee usually coming in last.  In between it is harder to tell who wins in beak to beak combat.  Then I saw the latest issue of Cornell Lab eNews with a report from a team of researchers that kept score, describing the ranking of 136 common species' dominance at the feeder.  It turns out that while bigger is better, it doesn't always trump guts and strength.  You can see the scorecard here.

Winter party with a few friends - Bill White, MDC
A companion article describes How Birds Survive the Cold.  Actually the factors sound a lot like a doctor's advice on winter health in a newspaper column. 
  1. Eat all the healthy food you can shove in your beak.  In this case especially eat fatty foods like sunflower seeds and suet, just not so much you gain weight. Energy equals heat, especially when you need to shiver.
  2. Dress warm.  Fluff up your feathers and when possible tuck your feet in.
  3. Hang out with friends.  They will keep an eye out for predators and may know the best local eating places.  And, like the joke about two fishermen and the grizzly bear, you don't have to be faster than the predator, just faster than your friends.
  4. Protect yourself from windchill.  Get on the other side of the tree or on the ground in the grass and shrubs.
  5. Snuggle in at home out of the cold, even if it is a hole built by a woodpecker.  This downy created a side entrance to a vacant bluebird house and filled it with dead grass.