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Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

(Winter and Summer Worlds #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,485 ratings  ·  277 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.

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  3,485 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professor Heinrich has done it again! I just love reading his books(I have read many of them). He mixes common sense experiments with great observations , humor and story telling! Great mix of the above! Can’t wait to read his newest book soon! Great author!
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.
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
Craig Flanick
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look into the adaptations that animals make in winter. This book will have you looking forward to exploring the outdoors during winter to appreciate these adaptations in action.
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Desperately need to be friends with this guy
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I feel bad rating as 2 stars a book I didn't really like for the reason that it's not the type of book that I like, but whatever. I found it "OK" and Goodreads says if I only thought it was OK then it gets 2 stars from me. If you loved this book I would never fight you over it.

Long Story Short: This is probably a wonderful book that was just not for me, at least not for me during this particular January, when I was expecting I’d have some cozy dark-early winter times and got instead 80-degree we
Sep 13, 2016 marked it as abandoned

This is the third of Heinrich's books that I've read, and so far it's been the least appealing. Now at the halfway point I'm bailing on it. Heinrich is always inching along a fine line between engaging narrative nonfiction and dry scientific observation. He writes memoir well, but can't help himself from slipping into highly technical description. This book teeters a little too often into that field of prose, and so the contrast with the more memoirish sections engenders a disjointed read. Mind
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read this in bits and pieces over the past few (winter) months, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Though it is pretty technical and scientific in parts, the overall feel is one of poetic marvel at the strength and ingenuity of these animals, who survive despite all odds through harsh winter conditions. I especially enjoyed the chapters on kinglets, honeybees, turtles, and bats and butterflies. I plan to read the summer companion to this book!

My only quibble with this book was the huge amount of ty
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book brought me back to my childhood. I was a science nerd from a very young age and at one time I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian because I loved animals so much. Things didn't quite work out that way. I became a nurse instead and never had any regrets about that, but my love for animals remains strong to this day. With that in mind, some readers may not find this book all that interesting. In my nerdy opinion, Winter World was fascinating and beautifully written. Heinrich examines h ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have had this book on my shelf for a few years. Yesterday, after receiving about 10" of snow here in New England, it seemed like the perfect reading choice for me. I curled up near the fireplace and front windows where the bird feeder sits, and watched some of my tiny feathered friends brave the elements to fill their bellies. I quickly became fascinated with the book: Winter World; Bernd Heinrich.

The author is a biologist, and an illustrator, and this book has the most wonderful hand drawn il
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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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