Winter Is Here But What About The Wildlife?
Its November so we are well into the winter months. Its fine for us with our central heating and roofs over our heads but for wildlife to survive they have to work a lot harder at it.
Lets look at some different species of wildlife to see how they do it.
Birds. It is often the smaller birds that suffer the most in the winter as they are more susceptible to the cold than larger stronger birds. So they cope by being:
- Equipped with several layers of fluffy insulation down which traps heat.
- If they have a regular source of high energy food, they are able to build and maintain fat supplies to store in the body and burn for energy. This is where we come in, by providing high energy food on a bird feeding station such as fat balls, peanuts and meal worms. This type of food can be a life line for them.
- Birds can easily find water even if it means drinking from a puddle. But if it gets really cold and water freezes over it can be disastrous. So providing a fresh ice free supply is vital for drinking and bathing.
- You will often see birds flocking together in the winter months, as it gives them a better chance of finding food and they can huddle together at night to conserve body heat.
- Birds will shelter from harsh weather at night, finding shelter between loose bark and tree trunks. They will also roost in empty nest boxes.
Rabbits. Wild Rabbits survive the winter by.
- Creating burrows in the ground which protect them from the harsh elements.
- Protecting themselves by staying in thick shrubs like hedges.
- They will also gather together to keep warm as their thick coats provide insulation. They are naturally found in groups anyway this is called a colony where they all live in a warren, which is a group of burrows.
- As there is less vegetation around they will sometimes eat tree bark.
Deer. There are many different breeds of deer and they are hardy animals.
- They naturally have dense coats which help keep them warm.
- Prepare by eating more to top up their fat reserves for more energy and insulation.
- Decrease movement to lower their metabolic rate so if food is scarce they don’t need as much, as they are saving their fat reserves by moving less.
- Sebaceous glands in their skin coat their fur with a type of oil which helps repel rain.
Fox: With their thick insulating fur, foxes manage very well in the winter.
- They stay active throughout the whole of the winter months.
- When the weather gets extremely cold they will sometimes shelter for a couple of days but then become active again.
- If foxes do remain outside all the time they will often curl up in a sheltered area, wrapping their tale around their bodies to keep warm.
- Food is more scarce in the cold months of winter, so they survive on small rodents such as mice, also sometimes an unfortunate rabbit that comes their way.
- They are also very adaptable and will find scraps from bins or peoples’ back gardens if necessary.
Badgers: Some people may think that badgers hibernate in winter but that’s not the case.
- Instead they go through a cycle called torpor. During this time their body temperature falls and their heart will beat at half its normal rate, almost like being in a deep sleep in their burrows, which can last many hours.
- This means they reserve energy and don’t need to forage for food.
- Then on warmer days they will emerge to search for food.
Squirrels: The most well known breed is the grey squirrel which unfortunately doesn’t have a very good reputation not only are they bigger and stronger than their red squirrel cousins, meaning they eat more leaving less for the reds to survive on, they are hardier and breed more often so can over run an area with both types of squirrel in residence.
- When the weather is very cold they will stay in their drays for several days.
- They also have the advantage that there is abundant food available such as acorns and horse chestnuts in Autumn. They will bury these and amazingly remember where they are so they can dig them up again to survive on in winter.
- Also eating berries, fungi and even bark if food becomes scarce in the winter months.
- They also have warm, insulating coats, and are able to store fat reserves which help to insulate their bodies too.
Wildlife are amazingly adaptable and excellent winter survivors.
If you enjoyed this post you can find more information on wildlife here
Do you have a favourite wildlife species please let me know in the comments.