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.
A spot of bright red against the white of a snowy tree branch signals the presence of a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), one of winter’s most colorful and beautiful birds. Found in thickets along the edge of forests or in shrubby, overgrown fields and hedgerows as well as in backyards, cardinals usually appear in pairs but can gather in small flocks during the winter to forage for food. Their diet is mainly seeds and fruit, but they also eat insects. During the winter, cardinals are frequent visitors to birdfeeders. Sunflower seeds are a favorite food.