Unlike humans and mammals, birds have slightly higher body temperatures. When it comes to surviving in inclement weather, they can generate heat more quickly than most other creatures. Some of them have down feathers to protect their feet from cold.
This might arise a question in your mind, how cold can birds survive? Aquatic birds can survive temperatures up to minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Birds of prey, such as snowy owls can reportedly resist inclement weather nearly 40 below the freezing point. Besides, larger parrots can typically withstand minus 50 degrees.
Apart from that, there are a few more questions like whether birds can freeze to death or not, how birds withstand the coldest climates, and which birds survive the coldest snaps. In this article, we’re going to discuss all of them.
Check out our article on where birds go during blizzards.
Can Birds Freeze To Death?
Yes, birds can freeze to death if they’re injured or not used to chilly winters. Besides, if a bird has any unexpected health issues, it can be helpless and die of freezing weather. So, the healthier birds adapt to different temperatures, particularly harsh winter weather.
However, indigenous species can mostly survive the drop in temperature. For example, penguins can survive the coldest weather. They can easily adapt to climate change. In contrast, guinea fowls are warmer-climate birds, and so could die of inclement weather.
Read Also: 10 Birds That Don’t Migrate In Winter
How Cold Is Too Cold For Pet Birds?
40 degrees Fahrenheit and any temperature below it is too cold for pet birds, like cockatiels, small parakeets, and lovebirds. On the other hand, medium and large pet birds can withstand the chilly weather a bit more than the smallest.
If you have a pet bird, make sure to take it indoors. Provide it with warm shelter, blankets, and if possible extra heating sources. Give the bird rich-in-protein seeds and nuts. Don’t forget to offer water as they need to drink water even in the coldest winter.
How Do Birds Withstand The Coldest Climates?
Now, you might be wondering why most birds don’t freeze to death. How do they withstand the coldest climates? Birds have special adaptations for staying in cold climates. Here are just a few techniques birds use to keep themselves warm.
1. Using Body Temperatures
Birds are warm-blooded, having high resistance against microorganisms because of their strong immune system. Their body temperature can be up to 106 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit (slightly higher than that of mammals), producing enough heat to survive harsh weather.
2. Gaining Fat Before Winter
In order to keep themselves warm in winter, birds gain extra fat in the fall. When the harsh winter comes, birds use the fat to survive the coldest of temperatures. Some birds are out there that store fat during the shorter days of winter for the long winter nights.
3. Fluffing Feathers To Trap Heat
To protect themselves from chilly weather, birds fluff their feathers to trap heat. By using the heat, they slow their metabolism and conserve energy for the coldest nights. That’s why some birds look a bit fatter than usual in winters.
Another useful way to withstand cold temperatures is roosting. On winter nights, birds look for suitable places to roost. The places can be birdhouses, grass thickets, shrubs, evergreens, and natural tree cavities.
5. Migrating To Further South
Birds that don’t tolerate the coldest weather migrate to warmer regions, most commonly further south, in search of food sources and open water. On the other hand, non-migratory birds follow techniques (we already mentioned above) to overwinter.
Can Birds Survive A Polar Vortex?
Yes, some bird species can survive a polar vortex. For example, snowy owls can withstand chilly weather up to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Other birds that spend harsh winter in cities, such as Minneapolis or Chicago, adapt to fluctuating temperatures.
Now, you might be wondering what a polar vortex is. This is a large area of cold, low-pressure air existing near the Earth’s poles. The cold air in the polar vortex flows counter-clockwise, and therefore always remains near the poles.
Which Birds Survive the Coldest Weather?
Birds of Polar Regions can tolerate the harshest winter weather. The list includes:
- Arctic Tern
- Snowy Owl
- Northern Fulmar
- Rock Ptarmigan
- Snow Goose
- Snow Petrel
- Tundra Swan
- Antarctic Shag
Birds that don’t migrate to warmer regions can survive chilly winter nights. The most common overwintering birds are:
- Common Raven
- Blue Jay
- Black-Capped Chickadee
- Northern Cardinal
- Turkey Vulture
- Red Horned Owl
- European Starling
Which Birds Are Mostly Affected To Freezing Weather?
Waterfowl birds, such as swans, ducks, and geese are greatly affected by freezing weather. They mainly depend on water bodies but all of them are frozen in winter. Why do they do then? Most of them travel further south in search of ice-free water.
On the other hand, ground-feeding birds, like sparrows and cardinals are also affected by chilly weather. Their food sources are covered with thick snow. Many backyard birders offer food to these overwintering birds.
Compared to humans and other mammals, birds can withstand chillier winter weather. If the cold air of the polar vortex extends further to human habitats, birds can adapt to the cold snaps by using their body temperatures, fluffing feathers, roosting, etc.
However, we hope you have learned a lot about how cold birds can tolerate. If you have any experience in helping an overwintering bird or any further queries regarding this topic, you can comment down below.