We had a call yesterday that someone found a dead robin.

Talking to a local birder, a friend of his found a group of eastern phoebes that had all died.

The birds that stay in Iowa through the winter are adapted at finding food, but those that migrate and come back to find spring storm after spring storm may have troubles finding food. Robins typically eat earthworms, insects and fruit, but with more than a foot of snow on the ground, they will struggle to find food. Purple martins have also been spotted in the area, and their diet usually consists of flying insects including beetles, flied, dragonflies, damselflies and other species that are not out as the Midwest gets pelted with snow yet again.

(The osprey are back too! They are doing fine in the snow so far.)

However, people can help bird species get through these last few --- hopefully --- storms of the season. Keep your bird feeders full, as birds that typically don't stop at feeders, like robins, may use those as a last ditch effort at upping their calorie intake. You can also put out fatty offerings such as shelled peanuts, raisins, dried mealworms or even crickets to help species like purple martins.

Birds are unusually good at getting through storms though. We all know Iowa has freak weather that comes up each spring, and if it killed off the birds, we wouldn't have any left. There are plenty of ways that birds can get through storm season, even without the help of humans.

Birds take advantage of micro-habitats. They look for small hideaways --- crooks in a tree opposite of the wind, inside thick hedges, close to the ground away from the wind. We also talked about a trait in our "Feeding the Trumpeter Swans" video called counter-current exchange, which is how swan feet don't get cold on the ice and bird feet don't get cold on the wet ground. In birds, arteries with warm blood from the heart go past the arteries running cold blood from the feet, exchanging heat. This cools the blood going into the feet so heat isn't lost and warms blood going back to the heart.

Bird feathers are also an extremely important trait. Feathers trap air, preventing cold air from getting to the skin. The fluffier the feathers, the better the insulation. Take a look outside, and I bet all the birds you see will be puffed up to about twice their normal size.

So, yes, we will probably see some avian casualties from these storms. Yet, most birds will be able to make it through, and if you're worried about them, set out a little extra food while we wait for this latest snow to melt away into spring.

(Waterfowl to look for during migration.)

Three early spring migrators

When the days get longer and the temperatures get a little warmer, it signals that spring is on its way. You’ll even start to here winter bird residents begin to perk up, and you’ll start to see bird species that you haven’t seen for a while. Three of Iowa’s earliest spring avian arrivals are the…

Read More

Robin migration: When it starts and why you might see robins during the winter

Each year, since I was a little kid, my mom and I take guesses about when we will see the first robins of the year. Now that I live in northwest Iowa and she lives in eastern Iowa, she usually sees them first, so I usually guess earlier than I would expect to see them…

Read More

Spring and winter coloring page

When you sit down to color a picture, it’s usually pretty obvious what you’re coloring. What’s fun about folding pictures is that you have to finish it before you can see exactly what you’ve done. As we transition from winter into spring, we thought it would be timely to create a folding picture that encompasses…

Read More

Iowa winter birds

Pine siskins, purple finches, dark-eyed juncos, American tree sparrows — these Iowa winter birds are really only just a few of the birds that make winter a bit more fun in this cold state. 1. Red-breasted nuthatch Red-breasted nuthatches live year-round in many parts of the western United States and Canada, but they spent winter,…

Read More

Make your own backyard birding binoculars

Birding is such a popular hobby because everyone can do it. Whether you are backyard birding, taking a hike or even boating, you can always catalogue the birds that you see. The he Dickinson County Nature Center features nests of some of the most common birds you might see right outside your window. (Grackles, blackbirds…

Read More

Make your own pine cone bird feeder

More than 40 people attended last week’s Turkey Trot hike through Kenue Park and ended the Thanksgiving celebration by making their own pinecone bird feeders. If you didn’t attend, why don’t you grab the kids, head out on a wintry hike today, find some pine cones and make bird feeders of your own? (Okoboji seagulls…

Read More