Last week saw West Yorkshire covered in snow, with Harewood forced to close to visitors due to the weather. In this blog, our Bird Garden Manager Nick Dowling explains how our feathered friends deal with the cold temperatures.
Although most of the species we keep in the Bird Garden are cold hardy and well acclimatised to the Yorkshire weather, the recent low temperatures and snow have meant that some of the tropical birds such as the cockatoos and brown lorys have been making good use of their heated sheds. The flamingos have also been shut into the boat house while the lake has been frozen. Although naturally they are able to live at high altitudes and survive extremely low temperatures, a combination of long legs and slippery surfaces can cause problems for flamingos, so for their safety we keep them inside until the ice has melted.
Another potential problem caused by the lake freezing are visits from foxes who travel across the ice to snoop around the bird garden at night. Keepers have the tiring task of breaking ice around the chain ferry and Capability boat jetties to ensure there is no easy access route for potential predators. Unfortunately our mother and son red crested turaco did not have the sense to roost indoors so our keepers Abby and Peter have had to use gentle encouragement and shut them in their warm house on an evening!
Although from the Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile, the Humboldt penguins are quite content in the snow and often the younger members of the colony will chase snowflakes as they fall. Due to the freezing cold currents in which they swim, as well as the cold desert nights, Humboldt penguins are well adapted to cope with the cold despite their status as a tropical penguin species. They have a layer of blubber under their skin for added insulation, as well as two layers of thick densely packed feathers for waterproofing and further protection against the cold.
Some more feathered friends were out and about in the snow last week :