Winter Connection #6 – Animals in Winter

It’s winter, and often the world around us is white with snow and ice. Many animals completely change their coloring during winter, a way to protect them from predators, or make it easier for them to sneak up on their own prey. Also, winter is a time when animals adapt in other ways to live more successfully in their environment.

As we approach the mid-winter mark, here are a few more interesting facts about what is going on in the natural world around us.

ColorCoded. The Atlantic cod’s coloring reveals its home environment: red or green tints derive from an abundance of algae, whereas pale gray hues come from dwelling on a sandy ocean floor. Adult cod can live in temperatures below 14 degrees F.

ElegantSwans. Among the most abundant of swans, the graceful whooper swan also has the longest flight range. One route, an 800-mile flight from Iceland to Ireland, might be the longest sea crossing made by any swan species.

BlendingBird. Except for black spots behind each eye, the black-headed gull is almost completely white in winter, blending subtly into its surroundings. Although identified as seabirds, gulls actually move inland in winter to scavenge for food.

BigDig. During winter, the collared lemming’s claws become greatly enlarged to dig through ice, snow, and frozen ground.

LoveShack. In January and February, black bear cubs are born in their mother’s winter den, which she lines with ferns, grasses, and leaves. The cubs remain with their mother until they are 16 or 17 months old.

SnowyAdaptations. With males growing up to 10 feet and weighing up to 800 pounds, the Siberian tiger is the world’s largest feline. Its pale coat, longer and thicker than that of other tigers, is a key advantage in its cold habitat.

FairHair. Molting, the replacement of old plumage with new, is stimulated in the loggerhead shrike by the shorter days of autumn. This songbird is also known for its sharply hooked beak and its habit of impaling prey on thorns.

OrangeToGray. As winter draws closer, the distinct orange underside of the Douglas squirrel fades to gray. These squirrels are active year-round except durig harsh snowstorms, when they retreat to nests built in crevices and holes in trees or underground.

(The above information was found in Chris Hardman’s  2013 Ecological Calendar.

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