Where Do Birds Sleep in the Winter?

December 11, 2023

Birds’ amazing feathers are the first line of defense against cold. Feathers repel water, trap air between them and their body and efficiently insulate the warm bodies of birds from plummeting winter air temperatures. Feathers can also be fluffed and rubbed against to generate an extra layer of warmth by creating tiny air spaces that drastically reduce heat loss.

On a cold winter night, birds pack themselves into a variety of makeshift shelters to protect them from the elements and stay toasty. They roost in tree cavities, bird boxes and an assortment of other places that offer a bit more protection from the wind and snow.

Many birds, such as bluebirds, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and screech owls, congregate into communal roosting communities during the winter. These small groups can be found crowded into old woodpecker cavities, under the eaves of a house or in other natural and man-made makeshift shelters such as nest boxes.

For diurnal (active during the day) birds, finding shelter is important for both protection from predators and to help them burn fat to generate the body heat needed to survive a frigid winter’s night. They can be found huddled in clusters at the end of a branch, under thick vegetation or even tucked into a crevice within a vineyard. Barns are particularly popular roosting spots because they offer both protection and food security. As the weather gets colder, be sure to fill your feeders with oil-type sunflower seeds, safflower or thistle seed. The high calorie content of these foods helps to keep birds warm while they sleep.

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