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Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

(Winter and Summer Worlds #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,702 ratings  ·  306 reviews
From award-winning writer and biologist Bernd Heinrich, an intimate, accessible and eloquent illumination of animal survival in Winter.

From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter their environment to
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 23rd 2003 by Harpperen (first published 2003)
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Dan Pettus Just finished it and I don't recall mosquitoes being mentioned. Fantastic book though.…moreJust finished it and I don't recall mosquitoes being mentioned. Fantastic book though.(less)

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
The ingenuity of nature that manifests itself in the adaptability of animals always fascinated me and no matter if it´s surviving in extremely hot, cold, dangerous, barren places or, even going the extremophile way and simply surviving in any environment. But they are not cuddly, so lets better focus on the ones so large that they can be seen.

Understanding living in colder environments will be important for freezing humans and sending them out in million-year arcs to each place in the galaxy, aw
Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA
Bernd Heinrich isn't a purist. When he takes off to live in the frozen Maine woods for the winter, he might chop wood for heat and cooking but drives into town for a bit of relief every now and again. So reading him is reading a balanced man which is one reason I like his books so much.

The main reason though is that these books go into such extreme detail, the absolute minutae of the natural life and explain it in well-written prose and his own pen & ink drawings. His world is one where evoluti
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who cares about cold critters
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Michael Edwards
It’s like spending a couple of weeks with Bernd in his isolated cabin in Maine, ungrudgingly shared with deer mice & an assortment of bugs, all part of it. A remarkable man who’s sole purpose is to answer all your questions and while he’s at it renew your sense of wonder in nature’s complexity. If you’ve grown up with brutal winters and are at all tuned into nature you must have questioned how on earth animals survive it…“by defying the odds and the laws of physics and proving that the fabulous ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This great seasonal read carefully pitches science to the level of the layman. Heinrich surveys various strategies animals use for surviving the winter: caching food, huddling together, hibernating or entering torpor, and lowering their body temperature – even to the point where 50% of their body water is ice, as with hibernating frogs. “There is no magic. It is a matter of details—of getting everything just right.” He was particularly curious to know how kinglets survived in freezing conditions ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
This book gave me a new understanding and appreciation of what winter is like for small animals in the Northern hemisphere. There are some truly impressive feats of evolution at work here, and it was cool to learn about that. But Bernd Heinrich's views and methods are sometimes difficult for me to read about. He kills a lot of animals (insects, turtles, birds, rodents) in order to learn about them, and I understand that that is often the cost of knowledge. He just doesn't seem to acknowledge tha ...more
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
How do animals survive in the winter? The Arctic ground squirrel hibernates in the winter, and digs himself a small hole and sleeps there for 11 months each year! Its body temperature drops to -2 to -2.9 C, though in the laboratory, its blood plasma freezes at those temperatures! Once a month its body temperature rises to around 30 C for about a day, during which the squirrel experiences REM sleep. Why does its temperature rise, which uses up half of its available fat energy supply?

How does the
There are a ton of nature books these days, written by would-be modern-day Thoreaus and Carsons, people who sell self-congratulatory identity affirmations to environmentalists (sensu lato). Those books take two tacks: sentimental glorification of nature in lush prose, and an issue-specific jeremiad. I have read a ton of both, and I still love some of the best ones an awful lot (Barry Lopez, in the former camp). But after reading those formulas so much, and turning those values over in my head fo ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
OK - this is the 2nd book of Heinrich's I've tried to read - and could just not get through..and it is too bad. I think he is an excellent writer with some great naturalist/scientific knowledge...but I find his behavior described rather scientifically irresponsible. He seems to constantly just grab baby animals from the wild and raise them as pets to learn about. I'm assuming (maybe hopefully) that he has a permit to do this, but he never describes any of that. His writing is too pretty and emot ...more
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
A truly fascinating book on nature in our backyard and backwoods. This books deals with the many North American species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects that overwinter or hibernate. It is written in a narrative format and very little of the material is dry.

My favorite chapters, in no particular order, were those on weasels, flying squirrels, turtles, butterflies, bats, muskrats, and bees.

5 stars. An amazing store of information.
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
As with other books of MR. Heinrich's I have read, this one was very anecdotal. I question his methods and reasoning. Such as the whole business of banging axes on trees to make birds fly in an already calorie stressed environment. Or climbing up a tree and flushing out flying squirrels, then touching them, for the reason only of touching them. I feel like I read the words of a man who has grown enough to learn and know better and yet frequently acts upon the impulses if a small boy. Perhaps the ...more
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Someday, Goodreads will add half stars.

So, I thought this book had a lot of interesting information. While technical and tedious at times, I fully appreciate all of the information here -- there was definitely a ton. Yay science. Animals have some amazing adaptations to get through winter and I learned a lot. I loved the kinglet stuff -- no wonder they were the inspiration for this book.

I struggled with the author's overall tone though -- I guess his methods and reasoning. Kidnapping
Jan 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Am I just a cold-hearted you-know-what for rating this what I did? It seems to have done so well with other readers....??

Let me just start with what I *did* like:
I love any book about animal adaptations and mutations. (A quirky naturalist is what I like to call myself. Ha!) This book certainly discusses how animals are uniquely suited to cold weather climates (mainly the American northeast) in all sorts of different and fascinating ways. I imagined myself navigating through the winter woods, tru
Nov 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Heinrich begins with an absolutely beautiful chapter that discusses how much energy a body needs to remain active and alive, how much energy the sun provides to Earth's organisms during various seasons, and questions how species can survive when the sun's energy is low. He spends the rest of the book examining the various ways in which all organisms are unquestionably linked to and governed by the planet atop which they live. Many animals have different ways of adapting to low energy and Heinric ...more
Camelia Rose
Today (13th Feb 2021) it is snowing outside. Reading Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival makes me want to go out to explore the winter woods, to check the squirrels' nests, the bird tunnels under the snow, and the animals taking shelter inside half-rotten bogs, but I am only a couch potato who enjoys reading. Yet, my biology does not permit me sitting still day and light in winter, unlike the bears who have mastered the art of remaining sedentary yet alive without causing health probl ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science

How do bears, bees, frogs and other creatures stay alive in a barren, subzero landscape?

The author uses his experience and research in the New England winter as the backbone of the descriptions of ways creatures stay alive in those cold cold months.

Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and insects all have various and special ways of staying alive and passing there genes through another winter.

The various survival strategies such as hibernation and nest building-of mammals, birds and reptiles are presented
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
So good! I have no idea how I heard of this book, but I am so glad that I found it... and read it in January with silent snow falling outside the window. It was so chock full of interesting tidbits, really well written and digestible scientific details that I could understand and explain myself then (sorry John). (Super-cooled squirrels, shivering moths, and turtles that by all appearances die and come back to life months later.)

I also loved the ongoing narrative mystery of the golden-crowned ki
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book full of a love of nature and also a passion for careful science. So many stories about how creatures in northern New England deal with winter, with careful observations about their strategies for surviving long winters. Hibernation turns out to be complex and it comes in many varieties. Packed with details and sweet little drawings.
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Although I would agree with every other reviewer on this site that "Winter World" is a facinating read, accessible to a non-scientist, has gorgeous wildlife sketches by the author, and perfectly compliments a snowy day in my cold weather clime, I would add one other accolade to the pile: it completely changed the way I now look at the wild animals that share this frigid corner of Ohio with me, and made me respect them all the more. They are not beggars that live on the warm-heartedness of humans ...more
Andree Sanborn
I am getting closer to reading all of Heinrich's books. Each book leads me to more photographic quests and more reading from other sources. While reading this on my Kindle, I kept a running list of things to look for in the woods. The priority is Golden-crowned kinglets, a dime-sized bird that often flies with chickadees. I have heard them thousands of times and can easily recognize their calls. But few people have seen them because they are so small and elusive. Winter World describes the natur ...more
Clare O'Beara
This book reads like a companion volume to What Should A Clever Moose Eat? by John Pastor. We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures can't get any odder, they do.

Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures tur
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
This was truly what I'd call weird science. While it was fascinating at times, the author is just plain weird. In one moment, he's quoting fascinating scientific studies while explaining the biology of how frogs survive freezing in winter, and in the next he's calmly explaining that he determined the capacity of seeds that can fit into a chipmunk's mouth (how else?) by stuffing the cheek pouches of a roadkill chipmunk until they were completely full, then counting the seeds. Yep, because that's ...more
I love how this writer frames scientific questions like a mystery... and then proceeds upon a path of clues to get to a final answer. There are even mysteries within the mystery. He starts with a question of: How do Golden-Crowned Kinglets survive winter? And then proceeds to explore how many other animals do it, eliminating possibilities as he goes along, but defining the problem in in quite high resolution as he does.

I also really appreciated the discussions of metabolism as they apply to huma
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
This interesting book will tell you, probably in much more detail that you have ever wanted to know, the different methods animals employ to survive the harsh winter conditions, from hibernation to migration, supercooling to food storage, nest building to poop disposing, it’s all in here. The author explains the bizzarre, the strange and extraordinary facts from the animal kingdom, along with some beautiful illustrations.
If you love science and wildlife and you don’t mind rodents and creepy craw
Pam Kennedy
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love visiting nature with this author. He slows it down and opens up its secrets for us. Reading this combined with a walk in the woods is heaven!
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Wonderful wintertime wandering depicting the life of everyday observed animals.
Mike Nesemann
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ok, maybe the middle of a June heat wave isn’t the time to really appreciate the remarkable survival of creatures in winter, but put this on your to-read list for next winter. Mr. Bernd provides an overview of the amazing mechanisms creatures evolved to survive harsh climates, with enough specific examples to make “amazing” practically an article rather than an adjective. I thought I was familiar with hibernation, as in bears. Not so fast. It turns out there are various degrees of adaptive inact ...more
William Schram
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
I mentioned this before, but I live in Wisconsin. We experience all four seasons here, and that means that we also have winter. As I trudge through the snow on days that we have it, I marvel at the animal and plant life capable of surviving such conditions. The stark beauty of freshly fallen snow adds a sense of wonder.

Bernd Heinrich wrote "Winter World" to reflect on the ingenuity of animals in such conditions. Of course, there is hibernation, but that is not the only survival tool in the anima
I started off really enjoying this book, but the more I read, the more I changed my mind. The flow of the book got bogged down by just too many tiny little details and his interactions with wildlife, especially in the second half of the book, were too disruptive. I did love the sketches throughout the book, and I enjoyed learning about various animals (chickadees are one of my favorites), but overall it just didn't work for me. The lack of an index in the back of the book was also a negative- it ...more
Paul Preston
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing scientific book. Totally geeking out with the incredible details of how animals survive the winter. How can small birds, small mammals, insects make it through the tough cold winters surviving below zero temperatures for extended periods of time. Bernd Heinrich takes you out into the frozen woods to help you experience the harsh environment.
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Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child. He studied at the University of Maine and UCLA and is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont.

He is the author of many books including Winter World, Ravens in Winter, Mind of the Raven and Why We Run. Many of his books focus on the natural world just outside the cabin door.

Heinrich has w

Other books in the series

Winter and Summer Worlds (2 books)
  • Summer World: A Season of Bounty

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