Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

How Birds Stay Warm with Ornithologist Sahas Barve

Archived Webcast

The webcasts with Ornithologist Sahas Barve aired Feb. 6, 2020, as part of the Smithsonian Science How series. Watch a recording in the player above or by using the link below.


How do birds stay warm, especially in some of the coldest places on Earth, like the Himalayas? Explore the science behind how bird feathers help them conserve body heat with Smithsonian ornithologist (bird nerd) Sahas Barve from the National Museum of Natural History. Sahas will explain the different parts of a feather, and the science behind feathers, and also help students identify patterns in feathers. He will show students how to make predictions, based solely on feathers, on the kind of climate a bird lived in. Students will also learn how birds use metabolic processes to essentially “shiver” to generate body heat when feathers aren’t enough. Sahas studies how birds stay warm across Earth’s highest mountain range, the Himalayas, and will use specimens and examples from his research throughout the program.

This webcast supports learning standards in Life Science. See the complete list of standards alignment.

Meet Smithsonian Ornithologist Sahas Barve.

Teaching Resources

Use these resources to support pre/post activities:

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Life Science

3rd Grade

3-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • 3-LS2-1 Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive 

3-LS3 Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

  • 3-LS3-2 Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment

3-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • 3-LS4-2 Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing. 
  • 3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

4th Grade

4-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

5th Grade

5-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • LS1.C Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms, Food provides animals with the materials they need for body repair and growth and the energy they need to maintain body warmth and for motion


Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Life Science