I got to thinking about what it is (besides people who put up winter feeders) that allow such little birds to survive through the long cold winters in our colder climates? Considers the feathers!
An article in the most recent Audubon Magazine (Jan-Feb. 2012) by Robert Clark entitled "Miracle of Feathers" points out that among other functions, feathers are the lightest and most efficient insulation of any other body coverings of vertebrate animals. Surely smaller birds during the winter owe their survival to the great insulating power of their covering of feathers. Probably, many also lower their metabolic needs at night and generate heat by shivering, especially when generate body heat. There is a higher fuel cost to keep the matabolic fires burning and constant foraging for feed is important if they are to survive.
I would suggest that for those of us who carve birds, we would also do well to "consider the feathers." What is it that defines a bird for us? Other animals can fly, build nests, or sing, but it is the great variety of feathers and their colors that make birds so attractive to many of us. We need to give proper attention to feathers, their form, numbers, arrangement (or feather flow), and color in our attempt to carve a realistic representation of whatever bird we are carving. Keith Mueller has reminded us of this in his two-part series entitled "Artistic Design and Composition" in the Fall 2004 and Winter 2005 issues of Wildfowl Carving Magazine. He stresses the need to study feather shapes, feather tracts (pterylaegraphy ), feather textures and surface structures.
Take time to "consider the feathers" and to develop a greater skill in their representations on our sculptures. Your time will be repaid.