This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
ow do they do it? How do wild birds survive in the dead cold of winter? We all know as humans that when the thermometer hits minus 20 or colder we hurry from the car to the house. Even as we are adorned in thick, down- filled coats with toques and mitts, it is still bitter and unbearable. When the wind chill kicks in, it can even be life threatening, yet wild birds carry on each day seemingly un- bothered by the brutality of winter. What do they have that we don't!

Sherrie Versluis Feathered Friends

Birds have the highest body temperature in the animal world, ranging from 105 to 112 degrees compared, to about 98 de- grees for humans. Keeping

up these temperatures requires a lot of calories in winter. Preparations for the cold season begin in fall when wild birds begin to build up fat reserves. At that time of year food sources are plentiful; many plants have gone to seed and birds will eat excessive amounts. An extra layer of fat serves as insulation and can provide the extra energy needed to maintain their body temperature. Oiled feathers for insulation

Feathers are obviously the staple in enabling them to stay warm. In fact, wild birds will grow about 1,000 new feathers for winter, mostly down feathers which lie closer to the skin. You may witness birds shivering and puffed out in winter but they are not doing this because they are cold. It is actually a way to produce more body heat. The method is only used in the coldest of weather as it uses up a lot of energy and calories. The exterior feathers provide a source of water and wind-proofing as well as insulation. All birds have an oil gland located at the base of their tails. You may some- times see a bird rubbing its head along its body, from the tail upwards. This action spreads the oil throughout its feathers. Properly preened feathers are imperative for wild birds, especially in winter. I have been asked many times why birds’ skinny little legs don't freeze off. The reason: their legs are designed with very hard scales that reduce heat loss. Birds can also

Birds' body temperatures are up to 12 degrees higher than ours, but winter cold leaves them unscathed.

control the temperature of their legs separately from the rest of their body by restricting blood flow. Sometimes birds will tuck their head under their wing and crouch down to keep their faces and legs warm. On sunny winter days birds take full advantage of the sun's warm touch. They will find a perch in direct sunlight and warm their bodies to conserve calories.

The most surprising thing is how wild birds make it through the long, severely cold winter nights. Some birds like chickadees and nuthatches will roost together in small groups inside a cavity where they will share their body heat. This may be a natural tree cavity or a human- provided source like a birdhouse or winter roost. I once saw a picture of about 16 chickadees packed inside a roost, like a little puzzle.

Another skill birds use during the night is to go into a

state of torpor. In this state of reduced metabolism, they reduce their body heat by about 50 degrees. This is a major way to reduce and conserve calories but it can be dangerous. In this state birds are vulnerable to attacks by predators, as their reaction times will be very slow until they bring their metabolism back up.

To help give wild birds a bit of an edge on winter here are some tips. Provide black oil sunflower as a staple

food; this seed is very high in fat and eaten by all birds in winter. You can also consider shelled sunflower which makes the food even more accessible to them. A quality suet is an excellent source of fat, energy and calories and is a great attraction for woodpeckers and nuthatches in particular.

Keep water within reach

The availability of water is a big deal for birds in respect to preening. Water is used to wet the oil gland, making it easier to disperse the oil throughout their body. It also assists them in digesting foods in the cold. Heated bird- baths are a great way to offer water; don't worry, birds will not bathe in the same way they do in summer. Birdhouses left outside will provide shelters for birds to roost in during the night.

Wild birds are not dependent on feeding stations as

they are always able to find natural foods, but you can make their lives much easier by offering high quality foods and keeping your feeders full. In return, you will be treated to the antics and beauty of wild birds all season long. This will keep your spirits as bright and cheerful as are the birds themselves.

Sherrie Versluis owns The Preferred Perch on St. Mary’s Road in St. Vital, phone 204-257-3724.

Beating the blues this holiday season W

Hon. Deanne Crothers Minister’s Message

hen you think about the holiday season, what images come to mind? For me, it’s en- joying treasured holiday traditions, seeing those traditions through my children’s eyes, shar- ing with those less for- tunate and making new memories with family and friends. I realize how fortunate I am, and I also realize the holiday season can be a difficult time for some, including older adults. It’s okay if you don’t feel joyful or jolly at this time of year. But if there’s something that’s making it harder to enjoy the hol- iday season, please know there are things you can

do and people who can help you deal with those feel- ings.

A walk is good therapy

Here are some tips for beating the holiday blues: • If you’re feeling down, try going for a walk. Physi- cal activities like walking are good for your heart and your spirit. If it’s too cold or slippery to walk outdoors, many shopping malls offer indoor walking clubs for seniors. • The holiday season is a great time to celebrate trea- sured customs and traditions, spend quality time with the people you care about, or touch base with some- one you haven’t seen in a while. If you have access to a computer, it’s easier than ever to connect these days through email, texting, Skype or Facebook. If you don’t have a computer, many libraries in the province offer free use of theirs. • Share the spirit of the season by volunteering. Or-

December 2015

How birds survive winter’s bitter cold H

Some clues: they begin building up fat reserves as insulation in the fall; they grow about 1,000 new feathers; they puff themselves up, using many calories, to produce extra body heat.

It’s okay if you don’t feel joyful – but make an effort to find things to do and people to spend time with.

thing that inspires you or makes you laugh. Self-care also includes asking others for help when you need it (for example, preparing a large meal, transportation or assistance to attend a holiday party). You may find it helpful to talk to someone. Many organizations help seniors and caregivers deal with is- sues like seasonal depression. You’ll find a detailed list of resources in the Manitoba Seniors’ Guide at www. Call the seniors information line at 204-945-6565 in Winnipeg; toll free 1-800-665- 6565, to receive a hard copy of the guide, or to discuss any issues or concerns.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health problem, it is important to seek help early. This includes seeing a health care provider to as- sess your overall health and to rule out any underlying physical illnesses.

Lighten up – beside a Christmas tree, with friends.

ganizations like the Christmas Cheer Board, Winnipeg Harvest, Siloam Mission, and others throughout the province, are actively seeking volunteers. They are par- ticularly busy during the holidays and would welcome your support. • Many seniors-serving clubs and organizations of- fer social and cultural activities, including holiday pro- grams and events. Visit the seniors’ resource network website ( to find seniors’ pro- grams in your community, • Take advantage of the free (or low-cost) recre- ational opportunities offered at sites around the prov- ince. Contact your local library, community centre or recreation department to see what’s available in your community.

Caring for yourself.

When you’re alone, use this time to give yourself the attention and care you deserve. Begin by reflecting on something meaningful to you – whether it’s communi- cating with nature, listening to music or reading some-

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or the mental health crisis mobile team in your regional health authority. You can also speak to a counsellor 24 hours a day by calling Klinic’s crisis line at 1-888-322- 3019 or the Manitoba suicide line at 1-877-435-7170. Another helpful resource is the Mental Health Resource Guide, published by the Canadian Mental Health As- sociation – Manitoba and Winnipeg, at http://winni- Guide-for-Winnipeg-20th-edition-2015.pdf. Connect with someone who is isolated. If you

know of an older adult who’s feeling isolated and lonely during the holiday season, reach out and spend some time with that person. It may be the most mean- ingful gift you give or receive. Best wishes

Whichever holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa, I wish you a safe, healthy, en- joyable holiday season. Let’s all be good to one anoth- er, and grateful for the warmth of family and friends. Hon. Deanne Crothers is Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors. 15

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20