[CT Birds] "frozen" birds

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Wed Apr 4 10:16:59 EDT 2012


Larry,

I may be mistaken but I don't think anyone was implying all birds fluffing their plumage are dying. It has been my experience however that birds near a feeder and "frozen" in an exposed place, that are also fluffing their contour feathers, with eyes lidded or closed, are very likely ill. And I have had birds die in my yard after seeing this behavior, but they tend to end up on the ground below where they were perched. I have seen many birds in extreme cold weather conditions (I love winter hiking in the White Mountains of NH and have birded in nearly 30 degrees below F) and it is fairly uncommon to see "songbirds" perching/sleeping for long periods in the open fluffing their feathers (though Waxwings will do this snuggled together on a branch.) In truly brutal conditions (conditions where I was thinking I was crazy to be there myself) I have observed birds clearly lifting their contour feathers as they forage. Since most calories consumed by "warm blooded" animals are used in mantaining body temperature, active foraging increases as the temperature decreases, with the execption of species that may enter torpor like Chimney Swifts. If a bird needs to preserve its warmth, being idle in an unsheltered spot is a bad place to do so as that is where they will lose body heat fastest, they more often find a sheltered location (this is for predation safety as well as I'm sure you know) and a number of species use cavities to roost (even communal roosts in some species). Obviously raptors do stand in exposed spots in the bitter cold (large birds lose heat more slowly than small birds but let's not get into thermodynamix here!) but they need to be in the open to hunt, and I'm sure you've seen many raptors lift their contour feathers while doing so as I have. So yes, not every birds which lifts its contour feathers is ill or dying, but the situational context of the observation usually will tell you if it is likely.

Dave

Dave Provencher

 


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2012 11:22 PM
To: arsmiley at comcast.net
Cc: 'CTBirding'
Subject: Re: [CT Birds] "frozen" birds

Let's not forget that birds fluff themselves up in order to preserve warmth. 
A fluffed up bird is by no means dying, perhaps just conserving some bodily heat, and dang, they do close their eyes once in a while, just to nod off.
This is what they do, I have yet to find a dead "frozen" woodpecker, or puffed up and dead of any bird species in our yard due to these calamities.
We get many woodpeckers and they will freeze on spot, this is always due to an avain predator.
Fluffed up birds? This is the natural way for them to conserve body warmth, they are not all dying.
This is true ornithical data, not a guess by any means.
Grab a bird biology handbook, this will answer all these questions and many more.

Larry Flynn
Norwalk

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