Have you ever wondered where birds sleep, especially on those cold winter nights?
The generic answer is that birds sleep anywhere they safely can stay warm. Some ducks sleep in icy water. Bobwhites prefer to sleep on the ground. Crows and turkeys, however, like to sleep in trees. Cavity nesters, such as screech owls, are most comfortable in natural cavities or nest boxes.Wherever a bird sleeps, its first line of defense against the cold is its feathers. Feathers repel water and efficiently insulate warm bodies from the much colder air. Each feather is controlled by muscles that can raise and lower it. By fluffing their feathers, birds create numerous tiny air spaces that drastically reduce heat loss. This is the same principle that makes down jackets so warm in winter.
On extremely frigid nights, birds reduce heat loss even further by burying exposed body parts into their feathers. This is why birds tuck their bills into their shoulder feathers and why many aquatic birds often sleep with one leg tucked up tightly against the body. Birds also have an amazing network of blood vessels in their feet and legs that minimizes heat loss.
Song birds, such as cardinals, blue jays and finches will spend their nights in dense thickets or vegetation. Tangles of briar patches, grape vines and brambles protect birds from all but the most torrential of downpours. Evergreens and conifers also provide excellent protection from the elements.
Woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches sleep in cavities that are similar to their nesting holes. Some species roost by the dozens in large tree cavities.
Other avian sleeping arrangements are a bit more unusual. Bobwhites sleep in a tight circle on the ground, all heads facing outward. The close quarters enable them to conserve precious body heat, and the outward orientation allows many cautious eyes to monitor danger in every direction.
When there is lots of snow cover, ruffed grouse sometimes bury themselves in snowdrifts, where the snow itself insulates them from severe winter temperatures.
Despite their small size and lack of body fat, birds use specific anatomical peculiarities and behavior to make it through each night, no matter the temperatures.
Enjoy your birds!
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Owner, Steve White, is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show Bird Calls with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.