Please consider all images to be copyrighted and ask permission to use any of them. Thank you. DEClapp
Winter is a difficult time for all sorts of creatures. Insects lay eggs and the adults die, some will over winter but usually just an egg-rich female. Many birds migrate south to locations where the winter weather doesn’t kill their food supply. Some mammals hibernate and most really slow down. There are many birds that stay here in the north and these birds need to burn food to stay warm, find food to burn, find water, find shelter, and avoid predators. Winter isn’t easy.
Many of the wintering birds here can lose up to 10% of their body weight overnight. It is being discovered that many species can droop the body temperature significantly in an effort to lower demands on the metabolism. Hummingbirds can do this on chilly nights in the summer. The birds that come to feeders in the winter are adults. Most of our smallish and medium sized baby birds are pretty much grown and on their own within a couple weeks of leaving the nest. So the need for protein lessens. That is why most bird food is fatty or oily. Bird seed is thistle, sunflower, millet, or corn. There are either carbohydrates or oils or a mixture. Birds need this sort of food for metabolic control; growth has been accomplished and winter is a time for maintenance.
Feeders and thickets are where we find our small birds in the winter. The thickets often hold seeds and fruits well into the winter. Non-native plants like privet and oriental bittersweet are fed on by birds as are the native hollies and dogwoods. Poison ivy and bayberry are usually eaten earlier in the season but may persist into each new year. The thickets also provide cover from predators and a dense swath of vegetation to shed the wind. There is a rather pacific microclimate deep in a thicket.
The bird in the header image is a Black-capped Chickadee. This is a world-wide group of birds with many types in North America and even more in Europe and Asia. They seem tame and bold. A rather remarkable combination for a small bird. They are a very common bird of our woodlands and utilize thickets in the winter for cover and a place to glean overwintering insects and insect eggs.