During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for insulation, hunker down over their legs and feet, and turn their heads around to poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers.
You'll find four seasons worth of birds in the latest Birds of BirdNote calendar!
Birds on a Cold Night
Written by Frances Wood
This is BirdNote!
[Pacific Northwest mixed conifer/deciduous forest ambient; Steller’s Jay featured]
As December days shorten, you may wonder where birds, including this Steller’s Jay and others, spend the long, cold nights. It might surprise you to learn that they are not snuggled into cozy nests.
[Forest ambient, continued]
The only time of the year when birds sleep in nests is when they are incubating eggs or keeping their young warm. During the rest of the year, birds select a roosting spot. Often they use the same roost night after night.
Songbirds find a protected place to perch, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. [Call of Red-breasted Nuthatch] Small forest birds including this Red-breasted Nuthatch, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Ducks float in protected bays. [Sounds of ducks] Woodpeckers – like this Downy Woodpecker – cling to vertical tree trunks. [Call of Downy Woodpecker] Crows roost communally. [Caws of flock of crows]
On these cold nights, birds fluff up their feathers for insulation and often hunker down over their bare legs and feet to keep them warm. Most birds can’t tuck their heads under their wings to sleep as we’ve been lead to believe. But they do turn their heads around and poke their beaks under shoulder-feathers to keep their beaks warm.
[Return to forest ambient]
You'll find four seasons worth of birds in the latest Birds of BirdNote calendar; it's available on our website, BirdNote.org.
Calls of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Red-breasted Nuthatch recorded by G.A.Keller; Mallards by A.A. Allen; Downy Woodpecker by W.W.H. Gunn;
European Starlings recorded by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org.
Forest ambient including Steller’s Jay, recorded by C. Peterson
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org December 2016/2018 Narrator: Michael Stein