Fluff up and cuddle up – staying warm in winter (if you’re a bird)!
By Teri Grieve, Cumbernauld Living Landscape trainee
On any winter walk a common sight, and perhaps the poster child of our snowy winters, are our resident robins, which stay with us all year round. Strangely though their bright chests may stand out against the white of the snow, they almost vanish against the bare branches of the shrubs.
How do they stay warm over winter? Robins’ outer feathers are waterproof and you’ve probably seen them cleaning them to make sure their feathers are in the best condition to protect them against our typical rain and sleet, which is just as much a part of our winter as the robin is. You may also see these birds looking particularly plump at this time of year. This is actually due to their feathers as they fluff themselves up, trapping air around their body which creates an insulation layer.
Even in the quietness of winter there is plenty of life to be found, and every resident has its own way to keep warm. Fellow songbirds the long-tailed tits huddle together on frosty nights. In fact, it is common to see several species of tits flocking together at this time, not only for warmth but for vigilance against predators, as the lack of foliage in winter where they roost makes them more exposed.
Of course, to stay warm through these difficult days, having the right food is always important. As the ground hardens, trees become bare, and food availability decreases we can help. Providing your garden birds with clean water and high energy food like nuts and seeds will help get them though winter. You can also leave spaces in your garden a little on the wild side to allow birds to take shelter from the harsh conditions, plant early flowering plants within your garden, or simple take part in a bird count.
Many of Scotland’s birds in decline, so do take notice, and care, of those around you!