When it snows outdoors, steadily drifting down in large, dense clumps, what do you usually expect to see? We would like to watch various non-migratory songbirds in our backyards. If youâ€™re a backyard bird enthusiast, you would think so. Unfortunately, you might encounter a small number of birds in the snow.
Where do birds go when it snows? During a snowstorm, most birds huddle in the crevice of a tree, protecting themselves from the cold. They hide in dense shrubs and bushes as well. Some species, like yellow-bellied sapsuckers, hang tight onto the trunk of a tree, using their zygodactyl (2 toes facing forward and 2 facing backward) feet.
Apart from that, you might be wondering how birds cope with a snowstorm, whether they fly in the snow or not, and how you can help these overwintering birds survive. In this article, youâ€™re going to get in-depth information about all that.
Here is another article for you: keeping birdbaths from freezing without electric power.
Read Also: How Cold Can Birds Survive?
Where Do Birds Actually Go In Snowstorms
The common hiding locations are dense trees, thick shrubs, protected buildings, old woodpecker holes, and backyard birdhouses. While larger birds prefer dense trees and thick shrubs, smaller birds usually hide in old woodpecker holes and backyard birdhouses.
1. Most Birds Hide In Dense Trees And Bushes
During blizzards, most birds hide in dense trees, bushes, and even around buildings protected from heavy winds. When the snowstorm stops, they come out to satisfy their metabolism with essential food and liquid water, melting snow using their body heat.
2. Cavity Nesting Birds Gather In Old Woodpecker Holes
Some cavity-nesting birds, like woodpeckers, bluebirds, swallows, nuthatches, and chickadees gather in old woodpecker holes during a heavy snowfall. A few small birds, such as sparrows, flycatchers, and wrens can also be found in the crevice of trees.
3. Small Songbirds Huddle Together in Backyard Birdhouses
On a chilly night when it heavily snows, small songbirds, like bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, sparrows, and more, choose backyard birdhouses to huddle together. These manmade structures protect birds quite well from inclement weather.
4. Insect-Eating Birds Migrate Warmer Regions
Some birds are out there that primarily eat insects. The list includes Eastern bluebirds, ruby-crowned kinglets, hermit thrushes, Annaâ€™s hummingbirds, yellow-rumped warblers, etc. They usually migrate to warmer regions to protect themselves from snowstorms.
How Do Birds Survive A Snowstorm?
In harsh winter months, many people keep themselves indoors for days to cope with freezing temperatures and potential blizzards. But what about birds? How do they survive heavy snowfall? There are three things birds usually do.
- Choosing The Right Location
- Preparing In Advance
- Adapting To The Weather
1. Choosing The Right Location
When a heavy snowfall tends to hit, birds choose the right location to hide. Most commonly, they prefer the downwind side of a tree, abandoned houses, manmade structures protected from winds, backyard birdhouses, crevices of trees, etc.
Some birds are out there that wander several miles to find adequate shelter. Dense evergreens provide better coverage compared to bare branches, allowing overwintering birds to cache food for the time when food sources are not abundant.
2. Preparing In Advance
Have you ever noticed that birds look a bit fatter during cold winter weather? Did you know fatter birds can better survive a snowstorm? As preparation for winter snowstorms, birds start growing fat in their body in the fall.
When they sense changes in weather, they forage more than usual, especially rich-in-protein seeds, for example, black oil sunflower. Besides, birds that live in a pair belong to a large flock to fight harsh weather conditions.
3. Adapting To The Weather
Over the years, birds have evolved to withstand inclement weather. They have a countercurrent heat exchange system that keeps their blood cold in their feet. This means they have to lose very little heat when standing on icy surfaces.
On the other hand, birdsâ€™ thick feathers work like jackets. Theyâ€™re the perfect insulators as well. In fact, birds can keep themselves warm during a heavy snowfall, fluffing up their feathers and creating air pockets that trap warm air.
Have you ever wondered why birds donâ€™t get frostbite on their feet during a snowstorm? To better understand how the countercurrent heat exchange system works, check out another BirdsAdvice article on why birdsâ€™ feet donâ€™t freeze in cold winter.
Can Birds Fly Around in the Snow?
Yes, birds can fly around in the snow but not all of them. The most common birds that can fly in blizzards are red & white-winged crossbills, northern goshawks, snow buntings, snow geese, bohemian waxwings, snowy owls, rosy-finches, etc.
These birds donâ€™t stay on branches until spring. They seek food and liquid water if necessary. In our opinion, there are no birds out there (except the flightless birds) that cannot fly in the snow. But if a hard snowstorm hits, they would like to stay in safe locations.
Why Do Birds Need To Fly When It Snows?
You might have seen a bird or two outside during a snowstorm. It looked odd but this might have made you think why the birds needed to fly when it snows heavily. Here are a few reasons below we have found out.
1. Looking For A Quality Food Source
Birds mainly come out of their shelter in search of quality food sources, like the fruits of berry bushes and the offered seeds from many bird lovers in their backyards. If birds are hungry enough, snowstorms cannot prevent coming out of their winter territory.
For your information, birds need consistent intake because their metabolism changes rapidly. When harsh winter strikes, they require more food to help their biological systems work properly and survive the coldest temperatures.
2. Finding Hiding Spots
If birds donâ€™t select their hiding spots before a snowstorm, they need to fly to find a suitable location during the heavy snowfall. As you already know, birdsâ€™ favorite shelters are crevices of trees, thick shrubs, abandoned houses, and wind-proof manmade structures.
Typically, birds like warm, comfortable locations. They also prefer places safe from predator attacks. If a snowstorm hits hard, birds try to find a suitable hiding spot nearby. Going to farther places might not be right for them in that situation.
3. Searching For Liquid Water
Even in winter, birds require fresh water for drinking and cleaning dirt from their feathers. If a snowstorm continues for a day or even more, many birds will need to go outside of their shelter in search of liquid water.
Typically, birds use their body heat to melt snow into liquid. Besides, many backyard bird enthusiasts like you offer winter birds unfrozen water in their birdbaths. To know more about it, read our article on how birds drink water in the winter.
How Can You Help Overwintering Birds Survive Snowstorms?
If youâ€™re one of them who love helping overwinter birds, you have some responsibilities to help your backyard birds survive snowstorms. In this section, weâ€™re going to talk about some tips and tricks you should follow.
1. Create A Natural Habitat In Your Yard
Would you like to help winter birds survive snowstorms? Create a natural habitat for them in your yard by planting dense conifers, like spruce or cedars. Next to your wood fence, you can place a nice thick hedge. You can even install tangled brush piles.
2. Place Birdhouses For Winter Nighttime Roosting
Backyard birdhouses help winter birds a lot survive snowstorms. You can install a few birdhouses in your backyard to allow small songbirds, like bluebirds and chickadees for winter nighttime roosting. Make sure to install them or clean the existing ones before winter.
We recommend the Nature’s Way CWH3 Cedar Birdhouse you find on Amazon.
3. Install A Heated Birdbath
A quality heated bird bath helps birds keep themselves warm during a snowstorm. The device enables winter birds to always drink liquid freshwater. If you already have a normal birdbath, install a heater or deicer.
Looking for a quality heated birdbath? We recommended checking out the API Heated Birdbath on Amazon. The Ice Eliminator Birdbath Deicer will be useful if you still have a regular birdbath. You can also find it on Amazon.
4. Hang Weatherproof Bird Feeders
You shouldnâ€™t forget that birds need access to food and fresh water even in winter. A bird feeder with a roof to protect it from snow can provide some open food sources when it snows. Peanut butter, mealworms, and suet are ideal for winter weather.
We have a couple of recommendations for you. Both are available on Amazon.
Hopefully, you have learned a lot about where birds go when it snows. You just keep helping the winter birds as much as possible. Always be ready for massive changes in temperatures. Keep the feeders full with suet, seeds, and other nutritious treats.
When snowy weather breaks, clean and disinfect your feeders and birdbaths with a solution of 9 parts mild hot water and one part bleach. Keep in mind that birds wonâ€™t come to your dirty pieces of stuff. Donâ€™t forget to let us know your experiences!