Last time, we explained that veins and arteries are located in close proximity in our birds’ legs….This allows warm arterial blood to raise the temperature of the adjacent venous blood before it returns to the main part  of the body. In addition, birds can constrict the blood vessels in their feet, reducing the overall amount of blood that flows there.

b2ap3_thumbnail_bird-Feeders-in-deep-snow-Robert-Tamulis.jpgPhotograph by Robert Tamulis

Birds also use specific behaviors to help keep their feet warm. If you watch carefully, you will see juncos, sparrows, and other ground-feeding birds interrupt their search for food to “rest” on the ground. When they drop their bodies over their feet and legs that way, they can use their feathers for warmth. A roosting bird that that lifts one foot off the perch and tucks it up into the feathers on its belly accomplishes the same thing, significantly reducing the percentage of uninsulated (unfeathered) surface area exposed to the air.

b2ap3_thumbnail_northern-cardinal-in-snow-Marvin-Stauffer.jpgPhotograph by Marvin Stauffer


Northern Cardinal male.  Photograph by Paul Gray

When you see a row of birds on a wire, try to determine whether any are standing on one foot. The more you observe birds adapting to adverse conditions, the great your opportunity to be inspired by them.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Junco-in-snow-Rich-Fowler.jpgDark-eyed Junco. Photo by Rich Fowler

As the late, great Yogi Berra once said:” You can observe a lot just by watching.”