Monday Minstrel: How do birds survive the Polar Vortex?

The Polar Vortex has descended. As the name sounds it is a broad swath of arctic air that descends onto Canada and spills on down into the northern US. I look at the little birds that come to our bird feeder and I wonder how they survive in the severe cold. This winter I am doing Project Feederwatch with Birds Canada and I learned some interesting information from Birds Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about how birds survive in the cold. And this weekend I am taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is exciting stuff and I will tell you about it at the end of this post.

EATING They eat as much as they can when they find food. So like this little Goldfinch (in his winter plumage) I often see birds spend a lot of time just pecking at the feeder and chomping down the seeds.

This redbellied woodpecker is an acrobat clinging to the feeder and selecting a big seed for himself. He then flies to a nearby tree and pounds it against the bark to open it.

Some birds like the mourning doves are ground feeders and pick up the seeds that have been dropped off the edge of the bird feeder above them.

RESTING AND KEEPING WARM When they have had their fill they find somewhere sheltered to rest and digest. This allows their bodies to use the food energy for warmth. While doing this they puff up their feathers and this keeps the body warmth in. Here is a little dark eyed junko in a sheltered part of the star magnolia that is close to the feeder.

Another Junko has sought shelter at the bottom of a large evergreen shrub. I have noticed that the Junkos like this shrub and as they are ground feeders they are happy to be on the ground under the evergreen.

SEEKING SHELTER Birds will seek shelter in the knot holes of old trees. We have a lot of old trees on our road and there are plenty of places for small birds to seek shelter.

Birds also seek shelter by getting out of the wind. This Downy Woodpecker spent a long time sheltering from a piercing north wind by perching on the south side of this tree. Then he would come to the suet feeder and have something to eat and return to the sheltered side of the tree. He is also puffing up his feathers to keep warm.

This weekend starting on Friday and finishing today ( Monday) I am taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a worldwide endeavor. Halfway through the count was as follows.

  • 5,279 unique bird species observed
  • 157 participating countries
  • 133,500 complete checklists
  • 254,854 sightings saved with Merlin Bird ID

These numbers were as of 12 a.m. EST, Sunday,

They are hoping to match or exceed last years total of 6,942 species. I think we can do it. Canada and India are tied in second place with more than 10,000 checklists each. Come on Canada!!! We have a tiny population relative to India but we have keen bird observers.

I will update on the final result as soon as I get it. Meanwhile we have another week, at least, of the Polar Vortex and we will be keeping our feeder filled up and the suet feeder is there too. They are survivors these birds. I am also linking this post to Terri’s Sunday Stills post Feeding those Birds

45 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Lovely photos !
    I had a stray cat that I fed, and he had a hunters instinct, so I did not put out a bird feeder. Bird watching is a stress reliever for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for commenting. We just have birds and squirrels. I have seen a feral cat or two in the past but not this year. So the birds are safe at the feeder.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marsha says:

    Brrr, your post is chilling, Anne. The birds are beautiful, though. It’s interesting to know how they stay warm. In CA we had hundreds of woodpeckers, and they had holes pecked and filled with acorns they could probably never finish eating in all the telephone poles at the edge of our property. They spent most of their time guarding from the telephone lines. We tried a bird feeder one year. The food rotted. There is so much natural food that in CA there is no need for anything besides a humming bird feeder. Even that is somewhat superfluous because flowers grow all year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Up here in the winter it is nice to see all the little birds and the Woodpeckers which are not big either come to the feeder. Now that we are coming to the end of the really cold season we will take down the suet feeder as it will not do well when the temps are above freezing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha says:

        Because they can find their own food?

        Like

      2. anne leueen says:

        The suet does not do well in warmer temperatures. It will go bad.

        Like

  3. More great images of birds finding food and enjoying it, Anne! They have a safe haven on your property!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I think they do. Thanks Terri

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kunstkitchen says:

    It’s fun to see you did this. I used to feed the birds, but too many pigeons came and started roosting on my neighbor’s nice house. I stopped. I miss see the birds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      That is too bad. We don’t have any neighbors close to us here. The birds are very entertaining and we also have lots of grey and black squirrels that give us something to watch as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kunstkitchen says:

        There’s some cardinals and sparrows around because we have big trees in the city – tree lined streets. Occasionally there are woodpeckers.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful photos, Anne! I really enjoyed your post. Sweet little birds all fluffed up, seeking food and shelter during this extreme cold. Hardy wee creatures!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice series of photos and words here, I think.
    Hope the count goes well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks. I’m waiting to get a final count

      Like

  7. I have a bunch of puffed-up little birds sitting in a small tree near our feeders.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Emma Cownie says:

    These are some lovely photos, Leueen.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. de Wets Wild says:

    What fascinating information, Anne, and so beautifully illustrated!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Laura says:

    Wow, Anne what an endeavor, and the birds are doing what they do in the winter to survive. While I’m not on an official project as you are, my seed feeder is a hub of bird activity every day, I am filling it weekly and the large Ponderosa Pine trees around it provide them with the shelter they need from the biting cold and strong winds. Great photos, so happy to know there is a global program to help these beautiful little creatures thrive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      They are amazing all these birds . I’m sure you see lots of activity at your feeder. It is very entertaining isn’t it? Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your love of birds.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. V.J. Knutson says:

    So amazing how they survive!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great to know about this. I can see more number of Mourning dove birds here. Is it the same kind of birds live here and there. Do they can survive in places with extreme hot and extreme cold conditions. To my knowledge I never seen that type of birds in my part of (south) India.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Interesting to know you also have the mourning doves in South India. I think most of the birds I see here are North American and mostly the Eastern side of the continent. All of these birds are here in the summer. The Goldfinch male has a bright yellow plumage in the summer to attract the females I guess! We also get some different birds that arrive in the spring and have spent the winter farther south. Thanks for commenting Subbashini. There are many bird watchers in India who are taking part in this Backyard Bird Count. I have seen some lovely photos they have sent in.

      Like

      1. Sorry for the confusion ma’am, Mourning doves are in Muscat (Oman). I never seen them in south India

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          Ah! I see. I knew you were in Oman previously. Still it’s interesting to know they were there!

          Like

          1. I am still in Muscat maa. We are living in Muscat for past ten years. I seen these type of doves only in Muscat.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. anne leueen says:

            Oh! I understand. Forgive my slowness in understanding where you were .

            Like

  13. Tranature - quiet moments in nature says:

    Beautiful images Anne and so lovely you’re taking part in these projects! ๐Ÿงก

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you Xenia. I am finding it great fun to take part in the ongoing Feederwatch and this Backyard Bird Count has been quite exciting since so many people from all over the world participate and some share photos of some beautiful birds they have seen.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. dprastka says:

    Wow, that is amazing and I had no idea there was a Great Backyard Bird Count with world wide participation. Can’t wait to find out the final count! And it’s a wonder how they survive such cold temps. Great photos! So happy you shared! โค๏ธ

    Like

    1. anne leueen says:

      This is the first time I have done it. It is amazing and I will update as soon as I receive the final figures! Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. sandyjwhite says:

    The polar vortex has been upon us for weeks. We may finally reach freezing by this coming weekend. Our feeders have been busy with birds. We too take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count each year. It’s such fun and so informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I’m so happy to hear this. It is my first year for the GBBC and it is exciting . Thanks for your comment fellow bird watcher!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Irene says:

    I have often wondered how the little birds survive the cold winters when I am all bundled up and still shivering. Thanks for your great info and images.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Well it is new to me but Birds Canada and the Cornell Lab send out emails with lots of good info.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Amy says:

    These are beautiful bird captures, Anne. Thank you for letting us know the worldwild Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll take a look at it through google. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is my first time with this Backyard Bird Count but what an amazing thing to have people all over the world taking part. Cornell posts photos that have been sent in by participants from all over the world. Some beautiful and some very exotic birds. Thanks for commenting and I hope you will find some information on it on Google.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amy says:

        Wow… Thank you for sharing! ๐Ÿ’–

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          It’s my pleasure.

          Like

  18. Amy says:

    These are beautiful bird captures, Anne. Thank you for letting us know the world wid Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll take a look at it through google. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks for taking an interest Amy.

      Like

  19. Megala says:

    Wow! This is incredible. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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