New York’s Winter Birds

When the winter comes knocking in New York, certain birds stay the course and make the season less severe for the rest of us. It is clear that winter is on the doorstep if not actually in residence.  Like people each bird species has its own coping mechanisms for surviving the chill.

Hermit Thrush in the cold
Robin in Winter

First, of course, feathers can be remarkably insulating.  Thor Hanson, in his charming book “Feathers: the Evolution of a Natural Miracle” gives the example of a small bird that winters in Maine which, in season, has shown a skin temperature 140 degrees higher than the ambient air. 

Cardinal in winter
White Throated Sparrow in winter

Not all birds are so well endowed but most “know” enough to change their geometry.  We lose heat through the surface of our bodies, and the sphere has the smallest surface for a given volume – so by configuring their bodies into a more bulbous form, birds can minimize their heat loss. The first photo above shows the Hermit thrush just a couple of weeks ago; the others display winter configurations. 

Opening photo: Hermit Thrush in the fall

All photos by Fred R. Cohen. See more of his work on his website.

About Fred R. Cohen (35 Articles)
Fred Cohen, a NYC-based photographer, has been taking pictures for over four decades. His work has been published by Harry N. Abrams, Time Magazine and The New York Times. He does commissioned work and sells images from his extensive library. You can see his more casual work on face book and are welcome to visit his website at