Back in November 2012 I photographed this Northern Harrier perch on a speed limit sign. This sign was on the auto tour road which is at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.

You will also notice in my image that the Harrier has lots of frost on it. You will also notice the trees in the background are showing great fall colors.

Northern Harrier Covered In Frost

Northern Harrier Covered In Frost

How Birds Cope with the Cold

Birds are well-equipped to survive the cold temperatures of winter. They have many strategies to maintain their body temperature, often around 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here are some ways birds cope with the cold:


Birds have a protective scale-like covering on their feet, and special veins and arteries that help keep their feet warm. Feathers provide excellent insulation, and when it’s cold, birds can fluff up their feathers to reduce heat loss further. Some birds even add extra feathers in winter.


When it’s necessary to ramp up the production of body heat, birds can shiver. This produces more body heat than if birds were sitting still.

Roosting and Cuddling

Birds can also conserve heat by roosting in sheltered areas, such as dense foliage or cavities, to avoid the elements. They also huddle together to share warmth and minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers.

Fat Storage

Birds store fat during the short days of winter to keep themselves warm during the long nights. Over 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species, including chickadees and finches.

Overall, birds are well-equipped to survive the cold temperatures of winter, and they have evolved many strategies to maintain their body temperature and conserve energy. There is no evidence to suggest that birds suffer when covered in frost, as they have adapted to survive in cold temperatures.

Image Information:

Date: 11/12/12
Time: 8:02:27 AM
Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Canon 500 f4
ISO: 640
Aperture: 4
Shutter: 1/320
Exp. Comp.: 0.0
Program: Aperture Priority