where do birds go in snowstorms

Different birds use different ways to wait out a storm. Birds that normally roost in a cavity—such as chickadees, small owls, woodpeckers—hide out in their cavity. They may also use roost boxes. Sometimes more than a dozen birds will pile into a single box to conserve heat.

Birds that roost on branches, such as jays, sparrows, cardinals, crows, etc, tend to perch on a thick branch very close to the trunk on the side most protected from wind and rain. When these songbirds (also called “perching birds”) are relaxed, their feet grasp automatically, so they can sleep while tightly clasping the branch.

Ducks, herons, and other birds that sleep on or near the water tend to find as sheltered a spot as possible—many swimmers stay out in the open water, and waders tend to gather near some debris or vegetation that protects them from at least some of the rain and wind.

What you can do for backyard birds during the winter

A specially made roost box can help your backyard birds stay warm over night. It may serve as a haven for backyard favorites like small woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees that usually nest in boxes. You can alter an existing nest box or construct a custom roost box.

where do birds go in snowstorms

According to Kenn Kaufman, field editor at Audubon, “I’m not sure how much the birds actively stop and say, ‘It feels a couple of degrees warmer here,’ but whether it’s instinctual or a conscious choice, they are definitely making moves to be in sheltered spots.” ”.

Their feathers are like natural down jackets—the ideal insulation. A bird’s down feathers trap air beneath its contour feathers, retaining body heat and keeping cold air from penetrating its skin. In addition, birds that spend the winter in cold climates grow thicker plumage, which they molt in the fall and spring.

Fat birds have a better chance of surviving a storm. Birds tend to forage more or congregate at feeders when they detect changes in air pressure, which is an indication of impending bad weather, according to Kaufman. Around a feeder in Kaufman’s yard, there were over 70 American Tree Sparrows gathered after the first big snowstorm of the month, when there had only been one bird before.

Many people are preparing for frigid temperatures and possible blizzards that could keep them indoors for days as winter draws near. Three factors, however, help birds weather those same storms: location, readiness, and adaptation.

Some birds will even travel great distances in search of sufficient cover and consistent food supplies. In winter, dense evergreens, spruces, or junipers offer more cover than a deciduous tree’s bare branches. This keeps the area beneath pines clear of snow and provides a place for birds to forage for food.

All About Birds is a free resource

Available for everyone, funded by donors like you

American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library Search for species name or keywords

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family or Shape

Need Bird ID Help? Try Merlin


Where do birds go in snowy weather?

Cavity nesters like nuthatches, titmice and downy woodpeckers use tree cavities and nest boxes to stay warm. Cavities and boxes provide protection from the weather and help birds hide from predators. Larger birds like American crows and ring-billed gulls are also known to flock together for warmth.

Where do the birds go during a storm?

When bad weather hits, birds generally seek shelter from wind and rain in dense shrubs or thickets, next to heavy tree trunks, and on the downwind side of woods and forests. Cavity-nesting birds hunker down in nest boxes and natural cavities to ride out storms.

Do birds know when a snow storm is coming?

Some birds appear to possess a storm-warning system that, in some ways, may be way ahead of the best systems we have in place. This ability was discovered a few years ago by biologists studying golden-winged warblers in the Cumberland Mountains of east Tennessee.

What happens to birds in freezing rain?

Birds are warm-blooded animals with protective feathers, they survive by generating heat and keeping the water off their skin with feathers. If the feathers fail and the birds get directly soaked with freezing water, they can get hypothermia and die just like any other warm blooded creature.