The frosty morning air can be a big shock for you after a comfortable sleep underneath a blanket. Your feet are freezing, and you still have to go to work. You wear thick socks to protect your feet from cold, but birds donâ€™t and theyâ€™re still okay.
This may arise a question in your mind, why donâ€™t birds feet freeze? The main reason is birds have a countercurrent heat exchange system that helps birds to keep their feet from freezing. Apart from that, birdsâ€™ feet have a few pain receptors to cope up with chilly surfaces.
There are a few other reasons why birdsâ€™ feet donâ€™t freeze in cold weather. In this article, weâ€™re going to talk about all that. Once you have finished reading this article, you can take a look at our published article on what birds eat in the winter.
Read Also: Where Do Birds Go When It Snows?
Why Birdsâ€™ Feet Donâ€™t Freeze
There are several reasons why birds donâ€™t get affected by cold feet.
1. Birds Have A Countercurrent Heat Exchange System
In birdsâ€™ feet, a countercurrent heat exchange system exists. Blood vessels are positioned closely together, and blood circulates through the feet fast. Because of this quick circulation, blood doesnâ€™t get a chance to cool enough in their feet to cause discomfort.
A network of arteries, called â€œRete Mirabile,â€ operates the entire process. Once the blood gets down, itâ€™s cooled. In contrast, when the same amount of blood flows back up, itâ€™s warm. Thatâ€™s why birds donâ€™t experience any heat loss.
2. Birds Have A Few Pain Receptors In Their Feet
Most birds, particularly common eiders and snow buntings, have a few pain receptors in their feet to limit heat loss. They have rough, scaly-skinned legs and feet with almost no moisture. Thatâ€™s why they donâ€™t need to worry about their feet freezing in cold.
Besides, birdsâ€™ feet have a smaller surface area than the rest of their bodies. Since they cope up with harsh winter weather, exposing their feet to the cold doesnâ€™t matter that much. We have an article on how birds survive winter. You can read it.
Read Also: How Cold Can Birds Survive?
3. Birdsâ€™ Feet Donâ€™t Have Sweat Glands and A Lot Of Nerves
Unlike humans, birdsâ€™ rough, scaly feet lack sweat glands. Thatâ€™s why they always stay dry and donâ€™t have to release body heat. Not only that, but birds donâ€™t have a lot of nerves in their feet to feel cold.
In the coldest weather, these factors severely reduce blood circulation. Therefore, they can manage to cope up with chilly surfaces. Apart from that, birds use a few techniques to protect their feet from cold. Letâ€™s dive into them.
How Do Birds Keep Their Feet From Freezing?
How a bird protects its feet from cold depends on which species the bird belongs to. However, there are some common techniques birds use to protect their feet from cold.
1. Fluffing Feathers
Most birds can fluff up their feathers in cold weather. They trap air between the feathery layers to keep themselves extra warm from head to toe. If they find other birds around, they usually huddle together and do this fluffing activity.
2. Lowering Body Temperature
During cold winter nights, many birds can enter torpor â€“ a state of reduced metabolism â€“ to conserve energy. Typically, birds can decrease their body temperature by a few degrees. Even, they can lower the temperature up to 50 degrees during torpor.
3. Standing On One Foot
Waterfowl birds, such as ducks, geese, and swans, stand on one foot in the cold by pulling the other foot into their warm downy feathers. After a while, they alternate the feet. Standing on one foot helps them warm the feet in harsh winter weather.
4. Covering Both Feet with Plumage
In chilly winter, birds use their entire feathered body as a mitten. Youâ€™ll often see them crouched down on the ground covering their feet with feathers to keep them toasty. Some birds grow extra feathers on their legs to cover their feet in the cold.
What Can You Do To Help Birdsâ€™ Feet Warm In Cold Weather?
As backyard bird enthusiasts, you have some responsibility to help birds so that they can keep their feet warm during cold winters. What can you do in this regard? Here are a few tips you can follow.
1. Hang Nocturnal Feeders
If youâ€™re willing to help birds keep their feet from freezing, hang nocturnal bird feeders with rich-in-protein seeds, like black oil sunflower. Donâ€™t have any bird feeder for nighttime? We would recommend you install the Perky-Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone Feeder from Amazon.
2. Install A Heated Birdbath
Even in winter, birds require fresh water for drinking and cleaning their feathers. Thatâ€™s why you should install a heated birdbath in your backyard. When a bird bathes in the water, its feet will be warm enough. The API Heated Birdbath is our recommendation for you.
3. Place Some Birdhouses
In order to help birds on harsh winter nights, you can place some birdhouses in your backyard. Itâ€™s evident that some birds use birdhouses on chilly winter nights. If you already have birdhouses, clean them properly before winter. Or, you can take a look at the Nature’s Way Birdhouse on Amazon.
In a nutshell, birds have a unique mechanism to protect their feet from freezing. Apart from that, they use a few techniques to cope with harsh winter weather. As bird lovers, you have some roles to help birds keep their feet warm.
By the way, we hope you have learned a lot about why birdsâ€™ feet donâ€™t freeze in cold weather. If you have any experience in helping wild birds in winter in your backyard, you can share it with us below in the comment section.