North Winds, Freezing Temps
No hats, gloves, nor heated homes.
How do our winter birds survive?
- In the fall, winter birds add on a layer of fat by increasing their normal intake of food. Some of them also grow more feathers.
- Because birds have a higher metabolism than we do, they also have a higher body temperature. The average is around 105 degrees.
- Their feathers equip them with a very effective form of insulation, and fluffing out their feathers enhances the feathers ability to insulate.
- Birds have an oil gland just above their tail, they use this oil to waterproof their feathers, while adding more insulation.
- Specialized scales cover their legs and feet, minimizing heat loss.
- Their ability to constrict blood flow to their extremities, enables them to control the temperature in their legs and feet, without effecting the temperature of the rest of their body.
- To protect their legs, they will stand on one leg or cover both by crouching down.
- If it is a sunny day, birds take advantage of it by exposing the largest part of their bodies, their backs, to the sun. Then they raise their feathers just enough to expose both skin and feathers, thus allowing them to absorb the sun’s warmth.
- During the night, small birds will sometimes share body heat by crowding together.
So don’t be surprised after an especially cold night, to hear bird chatter in the morning.
Reference: Chicago Audubon Society
With all these survival strategies, birds can still use a helping hand. Feed them and provide water, if you can.
Leisurely wondering the sidewalks and paths of Wolf Road Prairie, you might be lucky and encounter a deer. If the deer is at a safe distance from you, chances are that the deer will hold its ground, steadily staring right at you. Maybe it is sizing you up, perhaps it is just curious. Such an encounter allowed photographer Vito Martinez to capture the beautiful dignity of this Wolf Road Prairie deer. Notice the size of its ears and their taunt alert position. Those attractive looking ears are part of the deer’s defense mechanisms.
The next time you spot a deer at a distance, one that is not paying any attention to you, throw a small object to the left or right of the deer. Standing still, the deer will rotate its flexible ears independently of one another without moving its head. These large funnel shaped ears can effectively scan the air, tuning into sounds all around it. This enables them to pinpoint both the distance and direction of a sound with amazing accuracy. Hunters believe it is the out-of-place sound for which the deer are listening. They will ignore the familiar sound of a squirrel or a raccoon. Field studies have led naturalists to theorize that it is also an effective way for the deer to keep tract of one another. If that is true, then the noises they make while moving around is their own form of Twitter.
Reference: University of Georgia’s Forestry Service 2018.
Our resident photographer Fidencio Marbella has captured yet another amazing sight on Wolf Road Prairie in his beautiful action shots of two different species of moths.
First up is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), named so for its common mistaken identification as a hummingbird.
Next up are Snowberry Clearwing Moths (Hemaris diffinis), with their gold color and black band.
It is always wonderful to see the incredible kind of life inhabiting Wolf Road Prairie. Luckily, avid photographers like Fidencio capture these glimpses into the rare prairie ecosystem for everyone to see!
STPS Director Dr. EJ Neafsey has captured a visitor to our historic Prairie House! This barn swallow has nested right above the doorway to the 1850’s schoolhouse and Dr. Neafsey even captured them feeding their young. It is a great example of the life you can see on the prairie–an island of nature in the Chicagoland area! Check it out!
Dr. EJ Nefsay, director of Save the Prairie Society, compiled a series of aerial images documenting the changes in the natural landscape of Wolf Road Prairie from 1938 to 2013. Check out this amazing video!