Friday, January 16, 2009

Puffed up may mean cold, not conceited

Northern Cardinal

European Starling

White-throated Sparrow

According to The Birdwatcher's Companion, Christopher Leahy's one-volume encyclopedia of bird information, a bird's body feathers are "layered and overlapped in such a way as to trap and stabilize a layer of air next to the body and greatly slow the outward radiation of body heat. These feathers are under muscular control and can be raised to increase the air space and amount of insulation. This explains the familiar cold-weather sight of birds 'fluffing out" their feathers. "

Murray Head's photos, above, taken in Central Park yesterday when the temperature was hovering around twenty degrees, perfectly illuminate Leahy's verbal description.