Do you enjoy watching birds flitting around your backyard, going from feeder to feeder, or spending time in your bird bath? If you love watching bird life activity in your backyard, then you may wonder where do birds go at night in the winter months. During this time, the birds that don’t migrate have it tough, yet some will still make it to your yard and feast when they can. But are these birds safe at night, during the colder months of the year? How do they prepare for oncoming inclement weather, and how do they stay warm?
Where do birds go at night in the winter? Many will spend the night in the cavities of trees, or huddled on branches with their plumage fluffed up for added warmth. Birds that are lucky enough can find a human-made roosting box that’s insulated and will provide protection against the elements.
As you can see, birds tend to have it very rough during the winter. if you’d like to learn more about how your local birds survive the winter months and how you can help, read on.
Surviving the Winter
It may seem logical to you that all birds fly south for the winter, to a warmer climate. However, with migration comes plenty of dangers to consider, such as the difficulty that comes with flying such a long distance, which can easily kill even healthy birds, as well as weakened or younger birds. For many birds, sticking around and suffering through the winter is their best chance at survival.
However, these birds that do stay and rough it through the winter will also be faced with insurmountable odds. When the bird decides to stay for the winter months, it’s faced with two major challenges.
The first challenge is trying to maintain an elevated body temperature. For most birds, this temperature is around one hundred and five degrees. A human being in the north faces the same problem in the winter, which is staying warm enough to be able to continue to function.
The other issue is finding enough food to survive during the winter months. In the winter months, food becomes scarce, just when food is needed to provide the fuel the body needs to stay warm.
Birds have to figure out how to survive in the winter and this is done in many ways. While some species of birds have come up with great solutions to winter survival, others have to follow a basic formula, which consists of trying to maximize the calories consumed as they minimize the calories spent.
When the sun goes down, you won’t see many birds unless they’re nocturnal. Most birds are diurnal, which means they’re active during the daytime. Just like people, the bird spends their night sleeping. But how is this safely achieved during the winter months?
For a bird sleeping is necessary, but it can also be dangerous. They’re vulnerable to attacks from predators and if they’ve been starving far into the winter months, their body temperature can drop dangerously low while they’re sleeping.
A safe space to sleep during the winter months often means sticking close to home instead of going out in the open. Birds will also stay close to the trunks of trees because there is more warmth.
For warmth, birds will search for cavities, holes, or other types of niches in trees. If a hole is large enough, then many birds can squeeze in, allowing everyone to benefit from the warmth of body heat. Some birdhouses that are built by people can also provide a safe haven during the winter nights.
Waterbirds such as geese, ducks, flamingos, and herons will typically stay in the water during the night.
Birds such as blackbirds, will roost together in large flocks during the winter nights. Not only will this help to keep them warm, but they have also found safety in numbers. These birds will take turns and keep watch throughout the night for predators.
If there’s plenty of snowfall where you live, don’t expect to see many birds flying around. When the temperatures drop dangerously low, most birds will remain in their roosting spots and focus on keeping their body temperature up, as opposed to flying around and searching for food. This is a very dangerous time for birds and they must do whatever they can to conserve their energy.
However, if your part of the country experiences mild winters, then seeing birds active in your yard will be a common occurrence, especially if you have bird feeders or a bird bath.
As the days grow shorter, the birds spend less and less time outside. The only time of year a bird will sleep in a nest is when they are keeping their young warm or when they’re incubating eggs. The rest of the year a bird will snooze in a roosting spot. The same spot is often used night after night.
Songbirds will usually find a protected perch that’s sheltered from rain and snow. Certain species of forest birds will spend their nights huddled together in tight tree cavities.
During these colder nights, a bird will fluff up their feather for insulation, hunkering down over their legs and feet in order to stay warm. Many species of birds are unable to tuck their heads under a wing when they sleep, however, they will still turn their heads around, placing their beak under their feathers in order to keep the beak warm.
Do Some Birds Hibernate During the Winter?
The common poorwill is the only species of bird that is known to hibernate during the winter months. This small bird is found mainly in western states such as California. If you’d like to learn more about this interesting bird, click here to read our article on what is the difference between torpor and hibernation?
Can You Go Birding in the Winter?
Yes! As you have read, there are many local birds that decide to rough it through the winter. However, if you live in a colder climate, where it snows heavily, you may not see as many birds out and about. The birds that you do see may be hard to sight if you don’t have the best birding binoculars, especially in snowy conditions. If you’re looking for a new pair you can really rely on, we recommend the Wingspan Optics WingCatcher Professional Binoculars.
Now that you know where do birds go at night in the winter, you may be disappointed that many are not snug in a nest and kept safe and warm. Many will struggle to keep warm, especially if there is a food shortage. Unfortunately, hundreds of birds all over the world will die during the winter. If you’d like to do your part and help out your neighborhood wildlife, consider hanging up roosting boxes and smaller birdhouses during the winter. Doing so will provide birds with a safe and warm place to spend the colder months of the year. You should also consider keeping your birdfeeders full year-round in order to ensure that local birds have enough fuel to maintain a higher body temperature.