Frigid Mornings

Ever wonder why the birds look so fat on cold mornings? Like this Grouse.

Ruffed Grouse puffed up

Some of the hardy birds that winter in Minnesota grow extra feathers in the fall. After they molt their summer plumage, additional feathers, that are called afterfeathers, grow in along with the feathers. A bird may have 25% more feathers in winter than in the warm summer months. Those birds that are in the Grouse (Tetraonidae) family are particularly noted for their afterfeathers.

Cold Blue Jay

Blue Jays on cold mornings look twice their normal size as they puff up their feathers in the cold. Birds have what are called contour feathers on the main part of their bodies. These feathers are attached to follicle muscles, where each feather can be controlled individually. When they erect a contour feather they are creating an insulating layer of air between their skin and the feathers. A bird is constantly ruffling their feathers. It’s especially noticable on a cold windy day.

Boreal Chickadee in the cold morning

This Boreal Chickadee was sunning himself on a cold winter morning.

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2 Responses to Frigid Mornings

  1. ted says:

    i’ve noticed a big drop in chickadee numbers. Have you seen this also or is it just local? Do you have any ideas?

  2. Vacation says:

    I have noticed that too. I’m thinking that perhaps there is plenty of natural food sources out there for now and they’re just not coming in to the feeders. Maybe with this cold snap more birds will be moving south from Canada. There are a fair number of Pine Grosbeaks around; they are up in the trees feeding on Spruce cones.

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