Do Birds Shiver When it is Cold?


Cardinal digging in the snow for a meal.

I got this search on my blog which took the reader to How Do Birds Keep Warm in Winter. I did mention that birds shiver, but they use flight muscles to do so.


Sharp shinned Hawk looking for ground feeding songbirds.

It is not like I watch if they are shivering or puffed up to stay warm in the wild, but I do have a tropical cockatoo that will shiver when cold. So to answer the reader’s search, yes birds do shiver.


Two European Starlings in the bird feeder.

On January 24th it was really cold outside and many species of birds were coming to the feeders. The wind was wicked and I refilled the feeders constantly. Today, it is 10°F and it is another day of in and out feeder filling.

Wind blown Chickadee

Wind blown Chickadee

My cockatoo is happy to be indoors and eating his steak and eggs as the outside birds have seed and suet, fare the cockatoo turns his beak up at. Well anyway, this is the bird species that visited on Friday, snow flakes flying on and off all day.


Really Bad hair Day…

Looks like from today on through Wednesday that temperatures remain a hair-raising low with snow and wind gusts of up to 45 mph.

So much wind-blown snow drifted that the doors to the house were partially blocked. The storm doors froze shut and blocked by three to four-foot drifts – front and back! I have been digging myself out from the house! Once outside, my Jeep plows through the snow to get me on the move. Oh, do I love, love, love four-wheel drive.


American Crow

Birds were having trouble flying to and from the feeders or staying perched on limbs in the wind. Hawks like in this post, will take off by facing into the wind as the crow is doing above. But the wind is not a friend to photography…


Male Cardinal and Goldfinch

I could only take decent photos when the wind subsided.


Angry Bird

Nobody liked the wind today, me or the songbirds. So I took most photos when it calmed for brief moments.


Happy little Goldfinch

Honestly though, it was a bit comical how the birds feeding seemed annoyed.


Male Cardinal in the wind.

I was annoyed too having to raise the ISO so high to compensate for all the movement of crests and tails blowing.


House Finch

Not to mention the wind was tossing me around as well. So I was between being in and outside the house photographing. Below outside the house – inside through a window above. Nicer photos are taken outside, no?


Black-capped Chickadee

Some of the birds take it in stride dealing with this weather, it never fazing them.


Female Downy Woodpecker

The pear tree was filled with woodpeckers and nuthatches. A flock of eight goldfinch was in residence too, along with many very chilled doves.


Three Goldfinch

The garden had five pair of cardinals, three pair of Downy Woodpeckers, six nuthatch and a large flock of starlings during the day.

The hawk came in and cleared everybody out but only until moving on did the birds return. The little birds still looked skyward to see if he would return. I am his biggest nemesis when I am outside with the songbirds.


Tufted Titmouse

He is looking for unsuspecting ground feeders and I ruin his bird buffet often. There are many hawks too.


All the birds were back minutes after it left though. That is unusual coming back that fast after a predator was around, but I guess they like me as a guard dog.


White-breasted Nuthatch

Some were caching food in the pear tree like little machines. It was a very busy bird day, expected due to how hard it was to find food for the birds in their natural wildlife habitats.

Feeders are often filled with mixed birds when the temperature sinks and the snow covers landscapes.



Some dined in, others enjoyed a drink at the bar…


Three Sparrows at the sipping bar.

Singing, Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here!

Conservation Landscaping up in February in a three-part series.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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65 Responses to Do Birds Shiver When it is Cold?

  1. Lots of great photos showing birds with character. Love the female robin with the crest blown sideways.

  2. It is hard to take photos in the wind. You did great. That cardinal with the wind blowing her tail sideways just looks how I feel about it being windy again.

  3. acuriousgal says:

    I was watching the Chickadees from my window feeder…poor things getting all blown around by this terrible wind. Just love your bird pics, love hose little tossled crests on the Cardinals!! Question….why do I only have Chickadees at my window feeder so far?

    • They are the first birds to feeders. They as such quick little guys and they seem fearless as well. Once established and shown the the feeder is safe, you will get a greater variety of birds. The tufted titmice are also birds early to feeders. It pays to be small and quick. The hawks in my yard never got a chickadee or titmouse.

  4. alesiablogs says:

    I write and bird watch all the time out my computer room’s window. I find it soothing watching these little creatures go by. It is as if they keep me company. I am really not alone. Love it.

  5. Great photos, Donna! I’m looking forward to more birding activity when our temperatures move back up above 0, and the wind dies down a bit. This polar vortex is helping me t appreciate the more “normal” winter weather. We will break records tonight. 😦

  6. Hope says:

    Ha! I’m glad their guard dog didn’t have to climb through a window to get out of the house! 🙂

  7. Beautiful images.. Big fan of the Sharp skinned Hawk 🙂

  8. Ha, angry bird indeed! It was 0 degrees this morning and I was watching some poor mourning doves on the feeder looking so cold and miserable. They looked like they had puffed out their feathers for more insulation, but were still too cold to eat. The cardinals and woodpeckers seemed to be taking it more in stride. Tonight the low is supposed to be -19. I’m starting to worry about my new tulips.

  9. As usual, great pics. I love my birds and have a lot of these same ones in my yard. Thanks for braving the cold and wind to brings us up close and personal with them. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

  10. great photos all 🙂

  11. franzisofie says:

    It’s amazing how you get all these birds in a photo! And I never thought birds shiver. Amazing photos!

  12. Karen says:

    Hello Donna, I think all the photos turned out great whether you were indoors or out. It is amazing these tiny birds can survive this nasty weather we’re having. I don’t have a feeder per se, I’ve been tossing handfuls of cracked corn and chicken feed under a Serbian spruce shrub on a stick and they gather under the canopy to eat. You have a much greater variety of songbirds visiting your yard, I’m sure they appreciate the heated bird bath, too!

    • When I wrote the post yesterday, the temperature was 10° and today it is 0°. While not as last as the last chill two weeks ago, this one seems worse with the wind. I feel so sorry for the birds and have to go today to get them more food to finish out the week of frigid weather. I think many birds prefer the corn on the ground. I know the ground feeders do.

  13. Annette says:

    Thanks for these stunning pics, Donna. My favourite (if there is one as they’re all beautiful) is the one with the starlings as I love them so much!

  14. Great post Donna. I love seeing all the birds so up close and I have never seen the details of a Junco that clearly before….I feel like I am right in front of him. It’s nice that the birds see you as a protector and feel safe around you.

    • I find Juncos and crow the hardest birds to photograph being very dark. The lighting has to be perfect on them to get the right exposure. I guess I could use flash on the juncos because I can get close in the garden, but those crows get me every time.

  15. Those poor birds look so cold! I like the photos from inside the house as well as from outside. I’m going to the launch party for Night Lights tonight. Stop by if you’re not doing anything– It will be warm!

  16. Awesome pics! I think the professor looks like one of them birds.

  17. Ahahahaha I love that blue jay with the bad hair day!!!!!!!!! May I ask how you distinguish between cooper’s and sharp shinned hawks? I say this with 100% humility because I look at that photo and could not tell you which without the caption and I was wondering what diagnostic characters you are looking for?

    • Well I look at the head and tail. The head of a Sharpie is smaller in proportion to the body, but the tail is a give away. Straight across it is a sharpie, rounded it is a Cooper’s. It is harder to tell in this photo because of no real scale, but this is a small bird. Copper’s are larger generally. I believe it is a male too because it is much smaller than most that visit. Females are bigger.

  18. I always feel for the birds this time of year and we always make sure to keep the feeders full, despite the weather conditions. Interesting to know that they do in fact shiver. Makes me feel for them even more!

    • They are more likely to puff up, but I have seen them shiver in the wild too. I always worry because it might mean them sick. My cockatoo is not out flying around and generating as much heat and when he feels the least bit cold, he will shiver his flight feathers.

  19. Great Captures! I love when the birds here puff themselves our or like the jay this weekend just rock his mohawk:) Have a Great Day.

  20. Indie says:

    Ha, some of those birds look so comical with their bad hair days! The birds look so cute when they puff themselves up as well. My husband thought all the birds at our feeders were getting really fat, until I told them that they puff up their feathers to keep warm. I do feel for the birds outside in such a harsh winter this year, though.

  21. A wonderful series of photos. It is hard to take photos in the wind and being freezing and you are shivering as well. A great selection of birds. 😀

  22. janechese says:

    You captured the weather conditions well, with the snow and the blowing crests of the birds and I do prefer the outdoor light..My windy day photos were sadly unfocused. Do you have a heater on the water feeder?

  23. Phil Lanoue says:

    Poor Mrs. Cardinal looks miserable in the cold wind.
    Tremendous variety of birds you have there and glad they are getting some food to help them through winter.

    • I had to laugh when I saw her expression. I swear they give me these looks. I have a post coming up of birds giving me the evil stare. As much as they like me feeding them, they really don’t want me around in the yard. I was at the Falls today in 0° weather and the birds all looked very happy to see me and my baggie of food. A male cardinal came right up to the baggie at my feet and looked right up at me as if to say. “Open that bag and let me in.” I never had a cardinal so close that my 18-300mm lens could not get a clear photo. I still took the photos because I just could not believe he was that close.

  24. Our birds stay puffed against the wind here, but they were missing for many days with the snow, wind and frigid temps..they returned today and I was happy to see so many.

    • If you are not feeding them, I am not surprised they went up missing. I know you say you have planted for them in winter, but many of the trees and shrubs are picked clean at this time. I notice the trees and shrubs at the Falls where I photograph birds often and they are without the fruit and berries. This is acres and acres or vegetation too.

  25. A.M.B. says:

    Lovely photographs! Our feeders ran out yesterday, and we thought it was just too cold, icy, and windy to refill it. We threw some seeds on the porch instead. I’m hoping we warm up a bit soon!

  26. mariekeates says:

    Great photos, especially in the wind.

  27. Lyle Krahn says:

    I see you also have a beautiful hawk among this collection – beautiful. It didn’t look like it was shivering but it that make some other bird do it!

  28. Stephi says:

    What dedication to get all those photos on a blustery day like that. The shivering question reminded me of when I took an ornithology class in college. It was one of my Biology elective choices so how could I pass it up? We sure had fun field trips!

    • I was a Bio major too in undergraduate school. Our field trip was to a bat cave. Made me shudder. I don’t dislike bats, but seeing thousands of them…

      • Stephi says:

        I think I’d prefer searching for the Pileated Woodpecker that we could hear, but not find. Bats are just unnerving! I was actually in Biochemistry so I ended up with quite an eclectic set of courses between the disciplines.

  29. This is my first visit to your blog and I find your photos are amazing. It was wonderful to see all the ice coated world around Niagara Falls. Stunning photos. Thank you for visiting me and your kind comment. Pamela

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