We are freezing, aren't we?

Whenever the temperatures really dip during winter, I always marvel at the birds. It's a wonder to me that their tiny bodies don't freeze, and they appear to be relatively unaffected by the cold. Or are they?


They do look a little chilly, with their feathers fluffed out (to capture air which provides more insulation), but they're not shivering, nor are they moving about stiffly, stamping their feet, or doing anything else that we mammals tend to do when exposed to frigid air.


***


When it's really cold I like to make sure there's seed in the feeder for them, thinking that they can use the extra calories to keep warm -- is that how it works? Anyway, the cardinals and blue jays really stand out in the winter, so I spent a few minutes watching. No sign that they were too cold though.

Are you blind? I'm freezing here!

Yeah, we are too!

The thing that really boggles my mind is how their tiny, exposed feet don't freeze solid. I've read that the flow of blood to their feet stops or diminishes, but that doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't their feet turn stiff and virtually useless with no blood (or less blood)?

Their feet definitely still work:


Not only do their feet appear to work as well as they do during the heat of summer, they somehow can tolerate standing on bare metal that must be about 10ºF!


I know they're not sticking their tongues to the hoop, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't last more than a couple of seconds if I were standing barefoot on super-chilled metal. How do they do it?



Well I'm not cold at all. Not even a little. I'm actually kind of hot.


(Are they still watching? I'm FREEZING here!)


So cold so cold so cold so cold...


Any hot chocolate in the feeder today?


You think you guys are cold? I can't remember if I even *have* feet!

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GowingHabit –   – (December 14, 2010 at 10:34 AM)  

Being in the west is perfect timing: Your blog is already posted by the time I'm ready to start my morning surf with hot chocolate in hand. But in the west, we don't have cardinals. You know how frustrating that is? :)

Alan  – (December 14, 2010 at 12:05 PM)  

Yes, but in the west (depending on where exactly you are) you might have flocks of parakeets or parrots flying around instead. Plus you have several different hummingbird species compared to our one. So it all balances out. =)
.
BTW, the cardinals were the first birds to nest in my bamboo. I had nests in two different plants this past year. Will be interesting to see what happens next year when they are even bigger and denser. (The bamboo, not the cardinals.)

Gene  – (December 14, 2010 at 2:54 PM)  

you should spend some time on a farm Alan! ever seen a chickens foot (post mortem)? not alot of muscle there, so not much use for oxygen. the main structure of the foot is operated by a fantastic strucure of tendons and ligaments, so the stuff that needs the most bloodflow is up nearer the body, where it is easier to keep warm! That makes their feet pretty cool stuff! (terrible pun intended!)

amazing that your birds back there are SOOO colorfull.... our jays here are drab...(not my favorite bird anyway) we do have one pretty avian that I find LOVES the bamboo, its a Rufous sided tohee- a ground nester that loves the scrub and brush here, and apparently, the leftover seed from my pet birds, so we have them all year long.

Alan  – (December 14, 2010 at 4:06 PM)  

Gene -- thanks for the avian podiatry lesson! We had pet parakeets when I was a child, but when they were standing on me it was less "hmm, interesting foot structure" and more "aieeee, he pooped on me!" from what I remember. =)

Gerhard Bock  – (December 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM)  

Alan, great photos. The birds do look mighty cold--but that's probably just me anthropomorphizing.

GrowingHabit –   – (December 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM)  

Nothing drab about a Stellar's Jay, Gene! Nope, Alan, no parrots or 'keets at this latitude. Except at Gene's house. We do have 4 or 5 varieties of hummingbird. When its freezing temps out, I keep a light on the feeder so it stays liquid for them. Never ceases to amaze me, how they survive out there.

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