How do birds stay warm in winter?
They huddle. They puff their feathers, tucking head and feet into the fluff. And they shiver.
I was looking for keep-warm behavior as I watched some Bald Eagles during a recent howling snowstorm. An adult and a juvenile flew nearby.
Our lake, an impoundment formed by damming a river, rarely wears a full blanket of ice. When the region’s smaller lakes freeze, Lake Allegan still provides open-water fishing. So, while eagles are a common sight, I was surprised to see how these two behaved in the frigid, snowy wind.
Their heads and toes remained untucked, and while likely parent and child, they were not in a huddle.
The birds perched on high branches, fully exposed to the wind. Were they shivering? Perhaps—I was too far to see. And in one of the videos below, you’ll see some feather fluffing in action. But what amazed me was the birds’ stoic postures. They stood, regal beaks held high, for nearly an hour in the windy, arctic storm.
Watch this video, and you’ll see what I mean:
Did you notice how much the branches swayed as the eagles took off? And there’s a behavior snippet to think about. I cannot tell male from female eagles unless they’re standing next to each other. Females are up to one-third larger than their mates, but I didn’t get a side-by-side photo to check for that. However, the female eagle is also the dominant one of the pair. I postulate that it was a female who swooped in at the end of the video. Don’t you wonder what she was thinking, staring at the empty branch?
And now, for some feather fluffing:
Did you think the kid was losing his balance? I thought so at first, but the more I watch his movements, the more I think he’s just a novice feather fluffer. He’ll develop grace as he matures, but I hope he keeps that funny tail wag!