When it is wet and windy outside we like nothing more than to stay at home inside where it is dry and warm. For the birds, this is not the case. Wind can destroy our umbrellas , blow away our hats and dustbins, but for birds it can blow away their home and their food source!
Microhabitats are so important for our little feathered friends as they provide alternative shelter, food and also water sources than the larger habitats may offer. They are a great way to help encourage biodiversity in the plant and animal kingdom.
𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙖 𝙈𝙞𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙝𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙩?
The microhabitat is a small area which differs to the surrounding habitat. Its unique conditions differ to the normal everyday habitat we surround ourselves in. They vary in the exposure of light, temperature, humidity and air circulation.
Anyway... back to the birds.
The birds use these microhabitats as they can help massively with the cold temperatures. Temperatures can be many degrees warmer just a few inches off the ground. Over the many years birds have adapted to living in the colder weather and have ways of which they can keep warm. They gained an adaption called counter-current exchange. This means that in birds, the arteries with the hot blood running to the feet is passing next to the cold blood running in the veins to the body. The hot blood passes heat to the cold before it reaches the feet. Cold feet loose very little heat to the cold ground.
Feathers are another adaption that the birds use to keep warm. Birds’ feathers are very good to be able to trap air to keep their bodies warm. Their feathers act as insulation for the birds as they prevent any cold air from circulating to the skin. The fluffier the feathers, the better the insulation.
Preparing for a spell of bad weather is always high on the birds ‘to-do list’. If they do not have enough fatty foods, they won’t get all the potential to stay warm. Suet foods are so important as not only are the high in protein and nutrients but also has the high energy levels that the birds need to help to keep their warmth. It has been said that some birds can detect subtle changes in the air pressure, where they can indicate when a storm may be approaching. Once they have detected this change, they will start to try to get as much food as possible as the more fat a bird has, the better chance it has of surviving the colder weather, although not too fat as they have less chance of getting away from predators quickly.
If they can find shelter in a garden, nest boxes may be their first port of call. If a family is not already in the nest box, they will happily stay in there until the storm has passed and then leave. They will also find shelter under low hedges and in shrubs and thick density trees. Some birds such as swallows prefer to nest in our roofs, and other holes they find in houses as I’m sure at some stage you will have seen the birds nesting in the porch or flying in and out of your roof.