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How Do Birds Stay Warm in the Winter? – 6 Facts

Written by Clinton Atkins / Fact Checked by George Dukes

how do birds stay warm in the winter

Many are still astonished by the adaptation abilities of birds; thus, they ask how do birds stay warm in the winter? And how can birds not freeze in the winter? If we wear thick clothes during the winter, what do birds do to keep themselves warm?

Understanding how birds survive in the winter is helpful for those who birdwatch and attract feathered neighbors. By learning how birds stay warm in cold weather, you can provide better support for them during the cold months. Read this article to get started.


Ways Birds Stay Warm in the Winter


Birds have survived the harshest and weirdest environments, making them one of the most highly adaptable creatures on Earth. Many bird species migrate during the winter, but others stay to keep their hard-won territories and avoid migration risks.

Birds are warm-blooded and naturally have a high body temperature at an average of 40°C, and this can fluctuate depending on their activity, diet, and climate. Smaller birds are more at risk when the temperature starts to dip continuously. Here are several things birds do to keep them nice and toasty.

1. Shivering


Our body’s response when it feels cold is to shiver; it is the same with birds. However, they do it consciously. By forcing themselves to shiver, their bodies increase metabolic rates, and this, in turn, increases their body temperature in a short time. But this adaptation requires more calories, so birds only do it if the cold is extreme and their body heat is at its lowest.

2. Tucking

We often see birds standing on one leg or crouching on both legs with their feathers covering their bare skin to protect them from frostbite. They also tend to tuck their bills into their shoulder feathers, breathing warmed air from their bodies. This action can be compared to humans rubbing their palms and tucking them inside their pockets.

3. Fluffing

When birds fluff their feathers, they create air pockets for extra insulation. These keep them warm and make them look puffy and fat, which is a cute sight to behold.

4. Sunning


Sometimes the sun is out in the middle of the cold months. Birds use this time to do some sunbathing. They will expose themselves to the sun while raising their feathers and turning their backs. This will give them enough heat.

5. Roosting

Small birds like titmice and bluebirds gather together to create a small and tight space where they can share body heat. They tend to do this in empty birdhouses, boxes, trees, and shrubberies. Birds also pick their roost spots near any dark surface or close to tree trunks since they have residual heat from the sun.

6. Torpor


Another common way to fight the winter cold for many birds is to enter torpor, which is like hibernating for other animals. They slow down their metabolism and lower their body temperature to preserve energy. They do this when no food sources are available, and they cannot risk more calorie loss. However, it can put them in potential danger since their response to threats and predator attacks is slower.

In addition to these behavioral adaptations, birds are equipped with physical adaptations to keep warm in cold weather. This includes feathers that offer excellent insulation, legs and feet covers that minimize heat loss, and fat reserves that generate heat for extra energy.



Birds survive cold weather thanks to their superb adaptations. But many still have some unanswered questions on how tiny birds stay warm in winter, like if ducks stay warm in the winter, too (the answer is yes because they are birds!) We have some commonly asked questions you will surely find helpful.

What temperature is too cold for birds?

Small birds stay warm in the winter since they can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°C. But when it reaches below 4.4°C, it is too cold for them, and they will start their adaptation techniques to stay warm.

Do birds use birdhouses in winter?

Yes. Birds keep warm in the winter by using birdhouses. These serve as safe places for birds left behind, and they tend to huddle in a group to preserve their heat.

Related: Where do birds usually go in winter?

Where do birds sleep during the winter if there are no birdhouses?

Birds sleep in the winter in hedgerows, tree trunks, barks, natural cavities, roof spaces, and thick vegetation. They are skilled in finding warm spots, which are tight spaces that are not too exposed to the cold wind.

Is it okay to feed birds in the winter?

Yes. You should feed birds in the winter because during this season, food sources are scarce and the cold is a challenge. If you feed them, there is a higher chance that they will survive. Besides, they’ll become more familiar with your place and return whenever they need food.

Do birds eat snow as a water substitute in winter?

Yes, if there is no water source available nearby. However, this is not the best way to fill up on water. Birds need to turn the snow into drinkable water by warming it, which takes up a lot of energy and is dangerous for them. It would be best to provide them with fresh water every time.

Do birds feel cold on their feet?

While birds get cold feet in the winter, and you can feel it if they let you touch their feet, It is not a problem for them. They have few pain receptors in the legs and feet, so they are less likely to feel their feet freezing.


Now that you know the answer to how do birds stay warm in the winter, it is time to step up your winter setup for your feathered neighbors. This will also make your winter bird watching more enjoyable, knowing that the birds are kept snug and warm. With the information in this article, you can educate others better and contribute to more birds being kept warm during the cold months.

If you have any experience or helpful tips about helping birds keep warm, share them with us in the comment section below. We love hearing from our readers!

5/5 - (2 votes)

Clinton Atkins


Hi, I'm Clinton. Rocky and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.

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