Winter Birds

One of the common questions I hear when people look at my aviaries is how the birds manage in the winter without a source of heat. They don’t tend to ask that about the wild birds in the area, and that’s rather interesting. But here’s the key to keeping outside birds in Southern California winters.

We rarely get below 30 degrees F. overnight. And the freeze and frost we do get doesn’t hit inside covered areas. I had to scrape ice off my windshield this morning, but the inside of the car was simply cold. As long as the birds have a covered area with a couple sides protected from the prevailing winds, they will be able to stay warm enough.

120315 CA winter
We suffer so in Southern California Winters.

I never introduce new birds to aviaries when the weather is getting below 60 degrees at night. When the average temp is equal inside and out, that is when you want to set up your aviaries or new birds outside. In my city, that’s usually in July. By the time November rolls around, the birds are veterans at regulating their temperature.

quail on eggs
Quail on eggs in protected corner of aviary.

Also it’s important to provide lots of food for the birds, and maybe extra light so they have more time for eating. Burning calories to stay warm takes a lot of fuel, and not just seed. Quinoa or barley, fresh vegetables and fruit, and the odd sprinkle of Spirulina will do wonders for the flock.

Wild birds use lots of methods to conserve body heat that you will see in your own parrots and finches. They tuck their heads under a wing while resting, and pull one leg up into their feathers, or roost to cover both legs.

Cold birds will also fluff their feathers, capturing a layer of air beneath their feathers. This air warms quickly, and can add an insulating layer. If you see the bird still fluffed in warmer temps, you may have a sick bird, so be observant.

It takes some smarts to survive in the winter. That’s one reason most parrots are found in warm climates. They’re too smart to live in the snow. Corvids and jays also have brains they haven’t even used yet. Many song birds take off to more hospitable climates for the season. Of the ones that stay, lots of people enjoy putting out food for them. But there’s a myth about that which always makes me shake my head.

120315 ruofous
rufous humming bird, very hardy in winters.

The myth is that you can’t ever stop feeding the birds, once you start. Uh. Does that mean the plants have to flower every month, the fruit and nut trees have to keep producing year round? No, birds are used to food supplies changing and moving around. So don’t worry. Do what you can and feel comfortable with. The birds will enjoy it no matter what.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s