Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? Not All Fly South

Post contributed by David from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoor Crew 2:

For our last post in this series, we will see what birds do to handle the Minnesota cold. Some species don't handle it at all, and prefer to move south for warmer weather. This migration can be witnessed in spectacular display in the fall. Many birds fly south using the Mississippi Flyway, a migration path that follows the Mississippi River down the country. Our very own Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is located on the Flyway, and is a wonderful place to catch glimpses of birds as they make their way to warmer climates.

Geese migrating south.
Waxwings in winter.
Most species migrate due to lack of available food sources, but some have found ways to survive and thrive in Minnesota year round. There are 44 species of birds that live in Minnesota year round, with robins, waxwings, cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers being a few examples. These birds stay busy all winter, constantly searching out berries, seeds, and hidden insects, while seeking shelter among trees. One easy way to help these brave winter birds is to keep the seed heads on your dead flowers. Many gardeners advocate "dead heading," or cutting the old flowers and stems off the plant; however, the seeds from those flowers provide great winter food for the birds in your neighborhood!

A Cardinal toughing out the winter cold.
The past four blog posts just give a taste of the amazing variety of adaptations animals have to help them survive the winter. Which animals do you share similarities with? If you are fascinated by this topic and want to learn more, check out the book Winter World by Bernd Heinrich for a more in depth look.