NATURE NOTES: Winter Bird Adaptations

A Canyon Towhee fluffs up its feathers to trap warm air close to its body.

In this part of Texas, we can generally wear shorts in the winter. But there have been a few cold spells lately that have forced me to bundle up when I go outside. This got me thinking: How do animals, especially birds, keep warm in cold weather?

Birds have several adaptations that help them survive the winter in relative comfort. One of the most obvious ones is their downy feathers. Humans use down feathers to make warm coats and other clothing, so it makes sense that down serves the same warming purpose for birds. Down feathers are fluffy, small and can be found down below the bird’s other feathers, close to the skin.

Celeste Silling is Education and Outreach Manager at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. For information, visit

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