Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cooper's Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk Tuck Feet to Stay Warm

Earlier in the month a wrote a post titled How Do Birds Stay Warm? The post was widely read and way the second response listed to the Google questions “How to birds keep their feet warm?” A few days later, I showed some of the small birds fluffing their feathers.

In addition to the ways that I discussed (fluff their feathers, seek shelter out of the wind and cold, eat which gives them the energy to shiver), birds will also do what humans do – minimize the amount of skin exposed to the raw wind and cold air. We humans do this by wearing gloves, hats, and even earmuffs. The legs and feet of birds are exposed, so birds minimize exposure by tucking one leg in their body feathers.

And here are two examples, last Sunday, the end of a third week of record low temperatures here in Virginia, ended with a series of snow showers and high winds. The snow was so blinding that two hawks – a Cooper’s hawk and a red-shouldered hawk – rode out the showers perched in trees in the Colvin Run Habitat. The first three of these photos show the Cooper’s hawk clearly with only one leg/foot holding onto the branch. If you look very closely (click on the photo to enlarge it) in the first photo, you can see the yellow leg tucked up under the body.

The red-shouldered hawk employs this same technique to stay warm in the last photo. Sorry for the very poor quality in this last photo, by I was shooting through tow lines of trees and the snow.

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