Modern-day birds descended from Theropods, a group of Dinosaurs. However, unlike cold-blooded reptilian Dinosaurs, Birds are noted as Warm Blooded creatures.
Birds are endothermic and obtain their body heat as a product of their metabolic reactions but not from external sources. While humans maintain their body temperature at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, birds maintain it at around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. According to external factors like climate, diet, and activity, birds can fluctuate their body temperature.
Birds have a higher metabolism and higher temperature and therefore are called warm-blooded creatures. This is because birds have evolved to maintain their bodies’ temperatures, and during cold nights, they save themselves by keeping warm. Since birds can maintain the same temperature, they can survive anywhere around the world, despite how cold the outdoors are.
How do Birds Stay Warm?
Birds are naturally built to keep themselves warm during tough climatic conditions.
With several physical and behavioral adaptations, they can maintain their body temperature regardless of how their surroundings are.
Adaptations and characteristics that help birds in staying warm.
By Shivering: Shivering is an effective way of staying warm in extreme climatic conditions (though for a lesser time). Similar to humans, Birds shiver in order to raise their metabolic rate and generate more body heat.
By Fluffing: Birds fluff their feathers and trap pockets of air around their body. These air layers further work as additional insulation. However, it makes them look fat and fluffy but also keeps them toasty warm.
By Tucking: Birds, when feeling cold, tuck their bills into their shoulder feathers for protection. Doing so also helps them breathe air warmed from their body heat.
By Cuddling or Roosting: Cuddling and Roosting are those physical activities that help in keeping bodies warm. Birds gather together in large flocks at night to share their body heat during extremely cold temperatures. You may find them roosting in empty birdhouses, roost boxes, shrubbery, or trees.
By Sunning: Birds turn their back on the sun during cold winter days, raise their feather and soak sun heat into their skin. Sun exposure is the faster way to soak heat.
By Fat Reserve: Birds build up a fat reserve that acts as insulation for generating body heat. Several birds munch on fat reach food during the fall season, which helps them with an extra fatty layer before winter arrives.
With legs and feet: Bird’s legs and feet have specialized scales that minimize heat loss. Constricting blood flow to their extremities aims to reduce heat loss without risking frostbite.
Puff Up Feathers: Birds grow extra feathers during the late fall season, which gives them thicker protection during winter. Bird’s wings also have a special oil coat that provides protection against water and helps keep warm through the chilling season.
Special Mention “Torpor”
Torpor is a way of conserving physical energy during extreme winter days/ nights. This stage allows birds to reduce metabolism when the body temperature is lowered.
It aids in consuming fewer calories and therefore maintaining heat. Birds in Torpor can lower their body temperature by a range of 50 degrees Celsius.
Is It Okay to Leave Birds Outside in Cold?
Birds are outdoor creatures and therefore leaving them outside despite hot or cold weather is totally fine. Birds can tolerate low temperatures, given their physical and behavioral characteristics.
However, during the cruelest winter weather, it is humane to provide protection and warmth to the poor birds. Instead of leaving them outside on snowy grounds, allow your pet birds to stay indoors.
You can also help birds keep warm by following the tips below:
- Provide birds with shelter where they can roast through the winter season. Plant coniferous trees, evergreen shrubs, and greens that remain lush and fresh even during winters. You can also add a nest or roosting box beside to improve the shelter. Make sure the shelter provides safety from the winter breeze as well.
- Throughout the winter, even if only a single bird visits your garden, ensure to keep the feeder full. Offer them nutritious seeds and winter food, including suet, nuts, scraps, peanut butter, etc. Fat and calorie-rich food during winters help birds in generating more internal heat.
- Lastly, offer plenty of lukewarm water for birds to drink. During drinking water scarcity, birds would try melting snow; however, drinking that chilled cold water will drop their body heat by utilizing that previously stored energy.
How Cold is Too Cold for Birds?
Temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for birds. As the temperature starts touching 70 degrees or below, birds will begin showing signs of distress.
Even temperature dropping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit slips into dangerous territory and isn’t safe for birds. As humans, you might not feel the pressure of weather, but birds can feel it way harsher.
Can Birds Die from Being too Cold?
An extreme shift in weather and temperature, which is too hot or too cold, can result in fatal for birds.
No matter how much they are capable of maintaining bodily warmth, a temperature too cold isn’t safe for birds. In addition, their small body size can make them fight cold weather for too long, making the chances of giving up more prominent.
That is why if you ever encounter a bird struggling due to cold weather, try to provide her with some warmth. Bring the bird indoors, switch on the heating system and feed her something warm. You can also wrap the bird into a light and soft blanket for added comfort.
When the yearly chart starts hitting December, it is important to worry about your pet birds and wild birds’ well-being. You can provide shelter and warmth for your visiting birds by installing roosting boxes or evergreen shrubs.
Offering calorie and fat-rich food to add as a warming agent for birds during chilly winters. Besides that, learning about your bird’s regular habits and species needs can also help you ensure your pet’s comfort.
Hi, I am Rex Graham, An Avid Bird lover and an Avian Expert; BirdsNews.com is here to help you learn and care about pet birds. and this blog is a journal of everything I’ve learned.