Birds, like all wild animals, live outside, so are always affected by the weather and in ways that we are not. If we know something about how birds behave in different kinds of weather, it can help us look for them at the right time and in the right places.
Singing in the rain…?
Rain is good for birds because it helps plants to grow and brings earthworms to the surface of the soil. This is good for blackbirds, starlings, rooks and black-headed gulls, which like to eat worms, but too much rain can make life hard for some garden birds. The rain soaks their feathers and they lose the trapped layer of air that keeps them warm under their plumage. Small birds will spend wet days in the bushes and trees, keeping dry and searching for natural food. All garden birds are less likely to visit feeders and bird tables in the rain. This makes it hard for us to spot them, so wait for a dry day for your birdwatch. The birds are still out there somewhere, whatever the weather – but you might find it very hard to spot them.
When the wind blows…
Imagine you’re a tiny wren or a blue tit, and there’s a gale blowing. How do you move about?
Small birds like wrens, sparrows and tits rarely fly great distances, and find flying long distances hard when the wind is strong. Even larger birds like blackbirds, starlings and song thrushes wont fly far on very windy days. The flights they do take will be shorter and they will use sheltered spots along hedges and walls. If your feeders are quite exposed, on a windy day you probably won’t see many birds.
Brrr…frost, ice and snow
Chilly mornings in winter can make it hard for us to get up and head off to school.
But if you were a robin or a blue tit and you’d spent the night roosting in a hedge, you’d be very cold indeed. As soon as it is light, garden birds are up and hunting for food, because food provides energy – which they use to keep warm. In cold weather it’s important for us to provide food for birds. It is also important to provide fresh water because birds need to bathe in and drink all seasons, to preen their feathers and coat them with an oily substance that helps to keep out the cold. Remember, most natural sources of water freeze in winter, which makes this vital resource difficult to find!
In cold weather, if you’ve filled up your feeders and put out fresh water you should get plenty of hungry visitors to your feeding station – it may be the only food around.
When the winters are very mild, many insects may be active over the winter, so birds can find them. You may not see many visitors at your bird table. Please don’t worry about this though – it’s important to tell us what you do see.