For the next several weeks we'll be taking a look at wintering birds with our Nature Club friends and on our own. Today Holly & I hosted an activity in a neighboring community to do a nature walk and search for birds - wintering or migrating. The weather was pretty chilly and drizzly but we managed just fine and really enjoyed the fall season colors, seeds, mushrooms and fungi. It was rather beautiful out!
While we saw and heard very little from our feathered friends we still discussed how birds keep themselves warm enough during the wintering months. Holly learned that birds can grow extra feathers as part of a late fall molt to have a thicker protection, their legs and feet are covered with specialized scales that help keep the warmth in and they can fill up on extra fat preserves. As well, they fluff their feathers to create air pockets and tuck their bills, heads and feet. On sunny days they sun to warm their backs, fluffing their feathers to let the heat get to their skin. They can shiver to raise their metabolism and they roost to take advantage of group heat. As well, they enter tarpor where they reduce their metabolism when it is cooler requiring less food because they are burning fewer calories. Birds are amazing creatures!!!
We also talked about how we can help wintering birds by offering good habitats in our yards with bushes, trees, shrubs and brush piles. A food source that is consistent, water and salt crystals (let salt dissolve in water and evaporate to create salt crystals). We then talked about types of food -- seed, black oil sunflower seeds, thistle, fruits, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.. When we were all done the kids created a couple of small bird feeders to take home and add to their yard. They had a lot of fun with this activity and hopefully they will find them easy enough to create more later and keep their yards stocked well!
Holly is looking forward to more on birds this month and an upcoming field trip to the Nisqually Delta - it has been a while since we've been there, it's about time we visit once again!