Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bitter Cold and Behavior

One possibly good thing about the bitter cold at least for the grainivores, was that the raptors, nearing the end of the day had gone on to less bird wary areas to hunt snacks. The House Sparrows come back from where ever they have spent the day out of raptor sight, and perch in the sun on top of their brush pile.

As sparrows don't mind bunching up if it's raining, I've seen them sheltering together in hordes on the lee side of dumpsters in Central Park, I gave them their own old wash tub amongst the brush t0 perch under in truly inclement weather.

The second possibly nice thing about this weather are the Dr. Zhivago-est ice crystals growing on the windows. And as you can see the window is truly quite beautiful. But geez, is it worth it?
Temperature: -12 F.
Wind Chill: -25 F.

Earlier in the day, One Eye I (I think it was I as opposed to II or III) stopped in for a sunflower seed snack and the cold wasn't cramping his style at all

Later in the day, I glanced out and then I looked back again. The rhythm was off. Instead of buzzing around in a usual Junco manner, this male was somehow scrunching along the snow on his belly. Is he crippled? Have his legs frozen?

This is Butch on the 14th. This is how I've seen Juncos walk around in the snow. Their little skinny legs just a working, hoppity hop hop, taking the bird to the next seed. In fact I've never seen a Junco fazed by cold or snow in any way. In a new fall of powder, I've seen them land, nearly disappear into the mini-sized snow bank, "swim" their way out and go about their business. I mean it is really cold out but--

Oh no, there's another one that's completely hunkered down. Now Mourning Doves often hunker down on their feet but when they want to move they walk, they don't scrunch erratically.
Alright, this guy is looking at a seed he likes--then-- lurches in it's direction. That looks, shall we say unusual

Though he's looking perfectly happy eating his seed.

Aha! Then I see it. Look under the bird's belly, no appendages in sight. At first I thought they were doing a one leg hop while keeping the other up in the warm belly feathers, but under magnification what I thought might be a leg and foot are sunflower seed hulls. What the Juncos are doing is hopping, motivating forward while keeping their legs up. The legs aren't extended to get a powerful hop, so it's not strong, then the legs remain up, and don't extend on the landing so the legs and feet are for the most part never exposed to the 25 below wind chill.

They are doing belly flop landings with no doubt some braking of the body by the retracted feet and legs but even so it's not the most graceful move ever. But warmer in the circumstances trumps finesse any day.

Here's Friend and he's squatted down on his legs as well but his feet come out enough to walk. Though come to think of it, it's a species difference, Doves walk and Juncos hop ordinarily, hence the different effect of the posture on mobilization in bitter-weather-leg-preservation.

Besides look at what Friend has to withdraw his legs into. He can better afford the brief exposure to the elements.

Once again the inclement weather has gotten the Crows on the move. For three days previous to the temperature plunge, Crows were seen flocking and passing on. This mob of Crows, newly arrived this morning to the area, spent the rest of the day foraging in smaller groups and are now banding back together again.

The moon rises above it all sailing, always sailing her celestial pattern.

Now it is Doorstep Dove, Friend, and three Juncos, and not one of their ten legs in sight.
Donegal Browne

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