Winter’s chill has settled in, prompting us to bundle up, and it’s fascinating to observe how wildlife adapts to the cold. While some raptors embark on migratory journeys to warmer destinations, others stay put, equipped with remarkable adaptations for winter survival. When you spot a bird perched with puffed-up feathers, it’s employing its built-in down coat, creating a barrier against the cold and efficiently trapping body heat.
Birds take extra measures to combat the winter cold, particularly in their feet. Utilizing a specialized countercurrent heat exchange system, the blood vessels in their legs and feet minimize heat loss. The rapid circulation prevents blood from lingering in the feet long enough to freeze. Certain raptors, like Great Gray Owls, even boast feathers extending to their feet for added warmth, while smaller species like kestrels and screech owls seek refuge in cavities to shield themselves from frigid air and wind. Notably, during winter, raptors may increase their food intake, including scavenging for roadkill. It’s crucial for us to remain vigilant on the roads, reduce speed, and ensure their safe passage during this season.
Join us for a program to learn about more amazing raptor adaptations!
At Top: Great Gray Owl atop a tree. Photo credit: Irene Greenberg