Scott: It is the first day of spring… Yes! Which means you can look forward to longer days, blooming flowers and, of course, the familiar sounds of the season. Maggie Rulli explains.
Maggie: People across the country are starting to venture outside again, just like right here in New York City’s Central Park. And we are starting to hear something that we haven’t heard for months. Songbirds are out nationwide announcing the arrival of spring, even in this still snow-covered region of New York.
Now, we have all felt how cold and harsh this winter has been. But exactly what do these freezing temps mean for small birds? Well, experts say that it is less about the cold weather and more about the amount of food.
Dr. Robert Decandido: If there’s enough food around, the cold weather doesn’t bother the birds. It’s when there’s cold weather and little or no food that it’s a big problem for birds.
Maggie: Small birds can lose up to 10% of their bodyweight every night, so they have to eat a lot during the day.
Little has been known about how small birds survive the winter, that is until now. Researchers at the University of Oxford put microchips on more than 2,000 songbirds to find out exactly how they make it through those cold winter days.
What they found was that every morning, birds leave their nests and scout out food sources but they don’t immediately eat. Instead, they fast, staying light and nimble enough to avoid being someone else’s lunch. Then in the late afternoon, the birds return to where they saw food and chow down. Small birds have also come up with plenty of creative ways to stay warm, even when they spend the winter in the coldest of climates.
Dr. Decandido: Well, you can shiver, you can burn fat – the birds will do that as well. But they also have down coats. You know how we have down coats that are stuffed with feathers? They have their own down coats.
Maggie: And if you miss their singing in the winter, well scientists found a reason for that too. Songbirds stay quiet during the cold months, saving their energy for warmer days when their thoughts can turn from survival to singing and love.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.