What do other animals do during winter?

They store food, they eat a lot and store fat in their bodies, or they pack their bags and leave.

Come winter, we pull out our heavy jackets, gloves and scarves. We even put sweaters on our dogs! What do the birds, squirrels and fish do?

A plump, fluffed out robin on the ice.

A plump, fluffed out robin on the ice.
© creative commons

Next time you see a bird out in the cold, notice how plump it looks. Some birds, like the robin, fluff out their feathers to trap a layer of hot air near their bodies. They also eat a LOT before winter, so they have a layer of fat under their skin for extra protection from the cold. Fat is also important because the bird can use up the fat from its own body when there is not much food around.

Other birds migrate from colder areas to warmer areas during winter. Birds that eat usually migrate, because it is hard to find insects in cold countries. For example, swallows from Europe head south to Africa for winter.

An arctic tern in flight

An arctic tern in flight
© Andreas Trepte

The most spectacular migration is by the Arctic tern, a sea bird – meaning it lives by the sea and mostly eats fish. The tern lives around the north and south poles, which are literally the upper and lower ends of the earth. When summer ends in one pole, the birds fly about 20,000 kilometres to the other pole, every year!

An arctic tern chick, which was ringed in the UK, turned up in Melbourne, Australia. It flew 22,000 km in 3 months. Airplanes themselves take almost 24 hours for this journey.

A grey squirrel busy feeding before winter© David Dixon

A grey squirrel busy feeding before winter
© David Dixon

Squirrels do something different. They do as little as possible, so that they don’t have to eat too much. This is why you don’t see them around too much in winter. They make nests on trees, and in tree holes. They line the nest with soft material like dropped bird feathers – their version of blankets and duvets! They also huddle together with their families to keep cosy.

Even before winter – that is during autumn – squirrels do two things. They start eating a lot, and become fat, like the birds. They also start putting away food stores. They collect nuts and other food stuff – the red squirrel collects pine cones – and bury them somewhere. But the thing is, they tend to forget about these food stores! They end up acting as gardeners, as these seeds grow up to be new trees.

Birds and squirrels live on land, so they are relatively better off.


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