In winter, much of a singbirds' day is spent looking for food; they consume large quantities to supply the energy to keep warm at night when temperatures plummet. Fluffing their feathers creates an insulating layer of air. Their winter plumage can contain up to 30 percent more feathers than in summer. Many birds are able to slow their metabolism, lower their body temperatures or even reduce their heart rate to help them conserve energy. Some species gather in groups to search for food and to snuggle together at night to maintain body heat.
Winter birds will search for roosting places that provide protection from precipitation, wind and predators. They generally choose the same kinds of habitats that they use for nesting including cavities in trees, thickets, birdhouses, shrubs or evergreen trees. Even the smallest birds will thrive in the winter cold if they can find food.
The red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), with its distinctive call like a tiny toy horn, prepares well for the season by caching conifer seeds, its preferred winter food. Stashed in cracks and openings in tree bark, the seeds are collected by the bird as it walks headfirst down the trunk. It lives mainly in coniferous forests, but the inquisitive little bird is attracted to birdfeeders, drawn particularly to sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet.