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