Clayton, North Carolina

Birds in the winter

Birds are warm blooded.  In general, this means that they maintain their body temperature within a certain range even when the temperature around them changes.  The maintenance of their body temperature within a normal range depends on the amount of heat the bird produces. 

Birds need to keeping up their high metabolic rate to stay warm means eating rich, high-energy foods such as black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, suet and insects.  Winter is an especially enjoyable time to feed birds because of the constant traffic we see at the feeders throughout the day as our feathered friends replenish spent energy from the previous night and prepare for the night to come.

Do the birds need us?  This is one of our most frequently asked questions I get.  The simple answer is:  usually, no.  Feeding the birds is something we do for our enjoyment and, during most of the year; the birds would be just fine without us.  Research shows that normally, birds come to feeders for only about 20% of their daily calorie needs, fulfilling the rest of their diet with natural sources.  However, the story changes dramatically during extremely low temperatures.  One study showed that when the temperature drops below 30 degrees F, chickadees without access to feeders proved to have twice the mortality rate of their feeder-using counterparts.  So when you venture out in the cold to fill those feeders, feel good about the fact that you could well be making a difference in our local bird's winter success.