Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter Birds Take Water Baths At Minus 22 Degrees Below Zero

 Having liquid water available for birds in this extreme cold can be very important for their survival.  They need water to stay alive, but it is hard to find drinking water at -22 degrees below zero.

My heated water bath/feeder has been a popular place the last few days. It has a fringe of delicate frost grown from the mist rising off the water
 The water is only a few degrees above freezing but that was 50 degrees above the air temperature on Monday morning!  Mist swirls up from the water surface as this Goldfinch takes several drinks.

Many finches at a time are often perched around the edge of the water.
 This Blue Jay has to tip his head back to let a bill full of water flow back into its throat.  It does this several times before flying to the seed tray nearby. 
 This female Cardinal seems to be enjoying the warm mist as she waded out to the middle of the water this morning.
 This male Cardinal was braver and jumped right in for a regular bird bath this morning when the temperature reached a balmy -11 degrees below zero.
 He was not the only bird to do this.  A Starling and several House Sparrows also took baths and seemed to enjoy their time in the water. 

There must be some advantage to water bathing at these cold temps.  But only a few birds seem inclined to do it.


The Cardinal below has oily feathers to shake the water off.  The House Sparrow below is showing off making designs with water spray.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cardinals and Blue Jays Have Frosty Eyes at 22 Degrees Below Zero

 This Cardinal was at my feeders this morning with a temperature of 22 degrees below zero F.  Both the Cardinals and the Blue Jays had frost around their eyes.  I have not seen this before.

The moisture from their breathing must have condensed in the extreme cold onto the feathers around their eyes.

After an hour or so the frost particles were gone, and did not seem to effect the birds in any way, but it made them look odd.
 The frost was on the feathers around both eyes, and broke loose in little pieces.
 At these very cold temperatures the birds need to eat to stay alive, so I was able to get close to take these pictures.
 This Blue Jay had quite a lot of frost at first light, but did not sit still to pose for pictures.  Grabbing a mouthful of seeds it would fly away and eat them, then return for more to hide or eat.
 I think the picture below pretty much gives a sense for how these birds feel about this very cold weather.

This is the true test for survival for these birds and all living things needing to find food on an hour by hour basis in this cold.