Urban and suburban bird feeders are essential for some common birds in winter, study finds

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A male cardinal rests on a feeder with other birds at a home on Hillside Street in Syracuse on Friday morning, February 7, 2020.

Many of our common backyard bird species tend to move from forests and fields to towns and villages, according to a new study, when extremely cold temperatures arrive.

Environmentalists Chris Latimer and Benjamin Zuckerberg, of The Nature Conservancy and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that birds with lower tolerance to cold and some with higher tolerance use the same behavior to escape harsh winter conditions. more rigorous.

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wren, and House Finches – three species that have expanded their range northward and are among the least tolerant of cold – have moved to more urbanized environments, where they have found temperatures up to ‘at 10 degrees warmer and more food. available at the bird feeder.

Downy woodpeckers, red-breasted nuthatch, and black-capped chickadees – species that live in northern climates and more tolerant of cold temperatures – exhibited similar behaviors.

The researchers used data from more than 3,500 FeederWatch project sites in the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania.

The Feederwatch Project is a citizen survey from November to April of birds that visit backyards, nature centers, community areas and other places.

Their study period spanned 3 winters over the past few decades, including the harsh winter of 2014-15, which saw a polar vortex and the coldest February second on record by NOAA.

At the start of the study, they hypothesized that birds would move out of agricultural areas and towns to forests during severe winter weather events, as forests can cushion extreme temperature swings.

The birds moved in the opposite direction.

Contact Marcus Schneck at [email protected].

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