Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where do birds go when it snows?

On days like this, when the snow drifts down steadily in large, dense clumps, where do all the birds go?

Many birds species spend the winter in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Some species, like Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice, spend their time in mixed foraging flocks, searching for food sources as a group. Other species, like the American Robin, will spend their time in groups of their own species.

During inclement weather, like a snow storm, most birds will huddle in the crevice of a tree branch, trying to find shelter from the cold and wet. Some species will hang tight to the trunk of a tree. Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers use their special, zygodactyl feel (i.e., 2 toes facing forward, 2 toes facing back) and stiff tail feathers to brace themselves tight again a large pine or hardwood.

In this photo, naturalist Will Cook has perfectly captured the zygodactyl feet of the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. If you'd like to see more of Will Cook's fantastic photos, visit his website at

If the birds are hungry enough, they will come out of their relatively warm resting spots for a high quality food source, like the shriveling fruits of the beauty berry bush or seed offered by a bird-loving homeowner.


Anonymous said...

How far do birds travel to spend Winter in the Piedmont?

You mention that some birds take shelter in the trees to stay out of the cold and the snow. Is there a temperature limit past which birds can no longer withstand the elements? I was surprised, considering that we're in the throes of Polar Vortex 2 up in Chicago, to hear birds chirping and I saw one with brown speckled feathers and a red belly alight on a frozen branch. Not sure what species. Where do those birds hide to stay warm and safe? Can they survive in tree nooks in sub-zero temperatures with extreme wind?

Nicki said...

Please check out my reply here: