baby, it’s cold out there!

The thermometer read -13F (that’s -25C) in the backyard this morning — birds, squirrels, and deer were sleeping in until the sun rose high enough to hit the trunks of the trees and the bird feeders (around 10 a.m.).  And then the rush was on to grab peanuts, eat suet, and grab a few sunflower seeds before disappearing back into some warmer niche.

black-capped chickadee

Chickadee waiting patiently for a turn at the peanut feeder. 

These little birds look like balls of fluff, with their feather insulation expanded out for maximal warmth.  But a stiff wind today makes heat conservation pretty difficult with wind chill temps hovering around -35 F!

chickadee eating peanuts

Got one!  One small peanut weighs about 1 gram — providing about 0.5 grams of fat, 0.2 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of carbohydrate.  Just the fuel needed for a cold chickadee.  The bird might come back to the peanut feeder several times, but will probably stash most of them for consumption later.  The chickadee itself only weighs 10-12 grams.

red-bellied woodpecker eating peanuts-

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are peanut specialists, and return many times for these high energy capsules.

white-breasted nuthatch eating peanuts-

White-breasted Nuthatches prefer peanuts over sunflower seeds on a day like this.

I really dislike going out in weather like this, but animals have no choice.  Foraging hours are shorter on extremely cold days, and the birds prefer the high caloric fuel to make energy ends meet overnight.  Of course, retreating to a nicely insulated nest hole helps too.

The other day when I was out walking in the far backyard (marshy swamp area) just before dusk, I stopped to look at a snag (dead stump) with a variety of different sized holes in it, when suddenly a Hairy Woodpecker flew out from one of the holes.  A moment later another woodpecker flew out from the same hole.  They might have been a breeding pair that decided to share their heat in an old nest hole — which is a great way to survive this frigid weather.

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