Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes?

Birds have an amazing ability to find refuge from storms, but they do it in a variety of ways, depending on the species and the bird’s natural habitat.

In the past 25 years Eastern Bluebirds have become uncommon for reasons not altogether clear. Competition for nest sites with European Starlings and House Sparrows is likely a critical factor. The  placing of many artificial nest boxes in recent years seems to be helping to increase the population.

Bluebirds, for example, often winter as far north as New England. They find protection against the cold and storms by communal roosting, often in a bird house. There are photographs of 13 male eastern bluebirds, all crowded into one bluebird house. This behavior shares warmth, and keeps the birds out of the wind, rain and snow.

Other cavity nesters, such as chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers, also seek out old nesting sites in dead trees or bird houses in which to roost or find protection during a storm.

Nuthatches, which sometimes nest behind a loose piece of tree bark, may seek the same kind of shelter against the cold.

Flocks of rosy finches often roost in an outcropping of rock where they can get out of the cold wind.

Bobwhite make a circle of the covey, huddled side-by-side, with head facing out. This allows them to share body heat, while being ready to escape in all directions, should they be attacked.

Ruffed grouse take a different tactic. They dive into a snow bank, and may stay there for several days until the storm passes.
Many other birds retreat to dense, evergreen thickets where they are protected from the elements for the duration of the storm.

– George H. Harrison

Photo of a male Eastern Bluebird courtesy of Sharon Cummings

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