Monday, January 26, 2009

Why don't birds feet freeze?

This weekend I was out by the Connecticut River and happened to see a beautiful Bald Eagle. Some people might be surprised to learn that Bald Eagles migrate to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound but this is a common occurrence in the winter months. In fact every year you can take an Eagle-Viewing Boat Tour aboard "Riverquest". For more information follow the link below.

Bald Eagles are not the only birds out and about at this time of year, there are even birds that live in the water. The water at this time of the year is a balmy 37 degrees Fahrenheit so how is it that the birds don't freeze their feet? Well, the answer is that they don't really have much there to freeze. Birds feet are made up of scales, bones and sinews and have very little blood flow. While the birds body may be close to 100 degrees (higher then our temperature of 98.6) their feet are close to freezing during the winter months, however this doesn't bother the birds at all.

Seagulls and other birds have another method of keeping warm. It's called counter-current heat exchange. This means that the veins and arteries in the gulls feet are right next to each other. So as the blood comes from the body it encounters the colder blood coming from the feet and warms it up therefore the blood entering the body from the feet is warm. Pretty cool!

So keep your eyes peeled for all kinds of cool birds that are in Long Island Sound during the winter. You'll be amazed at what you can find.

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