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Kinglets in Winter

How do these tiny birds survive when it's so cold?

The Golden-crowned Kinglet weighs six grams, the weight of two pennies, yet it survives under conditions that would make a grizzly bear shiver. Wintering as far north as Alaska and Nova Scotia, with short days, intense cold, and heavy snow, how can kinglets possibly stay alive? Good insulation and lots of food! Read about Bernd Heinrich's research to learn more.

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Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Kinglets in Winter

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!
[Golden-crowned Kinglet calls]
Listen to these thin, silvery calls coming from the forest. You are in the presence of a survivor, the Golden-crowned Kinglet. This bird weighs six grams, the weight of two pennies, yet it survives under conditions that would make a grizzly bear shiver.
[Winter wind whistling]
Wintering as far north as Alaska and Nova Scotia, with short days, intense cold, and heavy snow, how can kinglets possibly stay alive?
[Golden-crowned Kinglet calls]
Bernd Heinrich, a biologist at the University of Maine, tried to answer that question. He found that the kinglets move through the forest in small flocks and feed constantly, at almost one peck per second, throughout the short day. By this activity, they take in enough tiny caterpillars to keep their bodies going. They maintain their internal furnace at 110° Fahrenheit.
[Golden-crowned Kinglet calls]
And their insulation keeps them warm. Their feathers make up 8% of their body weight, equivalent to the weight of the clothing of an arctic explorer. When night falls, the flock heads for the thickest conifer foliage it can find and huddles together to conserve heat, another of their superb adaptations for survival.
[Golden-crowned Kinglet calls]
We’d like to know what you think of BirdNote.  Send your comments to info@BirdNote.org.  We hope to hear from you.
###
Call of the Golden-crowned Kinglet provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
Ambient audio by Kessler Productions.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2010 Tune In to Nature.org      March 2010

ID# 030107GCKIKPLU

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