Spruce Ornament

DJ LeMay

Port Alexander, United States

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Featured in Songbirds of North America December 16, 2009
Featured in Wild Nature Photography & Writing December 13, 2009
Featured in Alaska ~ Beyond Your Dreams March 25, 2009

I just found out today, March 26, that these little beauties have not been seen here in Port Alexander, Alaska, for at least the last 27 years, if ever! I checked with the local bird expert who has lived here for 27 years! WOW!! Rainforest is not their typical habitat. They do live further north in Alaska. Makes me feel like I captured a phenomenon in Common Redpoll meanderings (they don’t migrate)! They flew in during storm force winds on March 20, 2009. An amazing Gift from Nature!!

These Common Redpoll are quite pretty sitting in our Sitka Spruce trees.

The following info is from wbu.com:

The Common Redpoll is a circumpolar denizen of the taiga and tundra of the high arctic. They range across the northern reaches of North America, Europe, and Russia.
Redpolls live in high Arctic regions where winter darkness lasts up to 6 months and temperatures plunge well below freezing. Research has shown that Redpolls are able to survive temperatures down to minus 67 degrees C (89 degrees F below zero).

How do these little birds survive these harsh conditions? Redpolls have anatomical, physiological and behavioral adaptations that enable them to survive and to thrive in these harsh winter conditions.

One of the most important anatomical adaptations that allow Redpolls to thrive in severe cold weather is their esophageal diverticulum, a partially bi-lobed pocket situated in their neck. Redpolls use the esophageal diverticulum to store seeds, especially before nightfall or before a storm. The extra seeds allow them to “feed” while sheltering from the cold. The birds knock seeds from trees, gather the seeds from the ground and store them in the esophageal diverticulum. They then fly to a sheltered spot where they can regurgitate, shell, and consume the seeds at leisure while protected from predators and harsh weather conditions.

Behavioral adaptations are also important. Redpolls, as do other species of birds, can fluff their contour feathers to trap layers of air to insulate their body and greatly reduce heat loss. Redpolls will sometimes burrow into the snow to escape especially cold weather. Under the snow, temperatures will remain at about minus 4 degrees C (24 F) even when air temperatures drop to 45 degrees C below zero (-49 F).

Every couple of years or so, northern finches invade more southerly locations. These invasions, also called irruptions, are greatly anticipated by bird watchers as species that normally occur at high latitudes move south in large numbers. It is generally agreed that these irruptions are triggered by shortages of food in the normal ranges of these species of birds. Synchronous failures of northern trees to produce enough seeds to support populations of seed eating birds causes these birds to move southward in search of food. Seed failures and the resulting invasions of seed eating birds occur simultaneously in North America and in Europe.

And this note from birdnote.org:

The tiny Common Redpoll, one of the smallest members of the finch family, weighs only as much as four pennies, yet it survives the cold and darkness of winter in the far North. Most birds depart in autumn to warmer climes. But redpolls feed on birch and alder seeds that are available throughout the winter, no matter how deep the snow. This little bird typically eats 40% of its body weight in seeds every day to keep itself alive. Redpolls are survivors.

March 24, 2009
D90 80-400mm Lens, 400mm Manual Exp. 1/2500 f/5.6 -1/3 EV ISO 400

Artwork Comments

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