Back to Back Issues Page
Check Out Those Legs
December 09, 2019

Not great pictures, but here is a chipmunk last week, filling its cheeks.

Several trips were made back and forth for this little guy.

I have mentioned that chippies don't really hibernate, they feed on their stash during winter and take advantage of opportunities to replenish the stash when possible.

Also, a picture of Miss Penny (cat), and Snickers sharing some time in the cage.

Snickers is four, and Miss Penny is three years old.

They were close buds growing up, and still have moments of tenderness.

If you look carefully, you can see that both are looking at the camera.

December 7 was the 78th anniversary, or remembrance of 'Pearl Harbor Day'.

America was at war with Japan.

Sadly, I asked my 16 year old grand son if he ever heard about, or was taught in school about  December 7, 1941, and he had no clue.

One of a handful of dates that altered history, yet it isn't taught in school anymore. 

How sad.

Things are pretty swell around here, for the most part.

The family is healthy as life allows us to be.

Always too busy however, or so it seems.

Little Snickers had her Rabies shot this past Wednesday.

She needs to lose some weight (me too), and I learned she has a weak, or lose knee cap in her left rear leg.

She holds the leg up at times, so I asked about this.

I guess she will hobble from now on.

No pain, that is good.

The Holiday Season is upon us, please be careful, slow down and take some important time for yourself.

I wrote on this topic maybe a decade ago.

Time for a refresher course and maybe something of interest for newer readers.

Bird Legs


Bird legs:

(Turkeys from several years ago.)

When you here this, you may think of someone with skinny or even scaly looking legs.

Not this time.

I'm referring to the make-up and design of bird legs.

  Bird legs and feet serve several functions and it often depends on the species of bird.

For most birds, the wings and body have bones that are hollow for flight purposes, and breathing purposes.


Pay attention now.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not because it makes them lighter.

It's because they need so much oxygen to fly that their lungs actually extend into their bones.

Birds' hollow bones don't make them any lighter.

Bird skeletons don't weigh any less than mammal skeletons of the same size.

After all, thin, hollow bones are more fragile, so they'd need to be made of much denser material to keep from breaking all the time.

In some cases, the bird species has solid breast bones to help keep them under water,  like Loons and other diving birds.

(Do you notice how low they sit in the water?)

These same birds need powerful legs to aid in take off as they run across the water to get airborne.

  Then there are Hummingbirds.

  Their legs are almost useless, mostly for perching.

  Hummers don't walk, or hop around.

  When a hummingbird moves, it flies, even when she turns around on her nest.

  Birds of prey need strong and powerful legs and feet to catch prey and for battle.

  Some birds need longer legs for running.

  Some for scratching.

  Nature has designed specific legs for every species and its needs.

When it comes to legs and feet, virtually all species of birds have solid bones, and bones that are more dense.

Birds need strong bones in their legs for the daily routines they are involved in.

Take a look at Raptors.

A bird of prey can fly in excess of 100 miles and hour and slam into another bird in flight.

Falcons have been recorded diving (stooping) at speeds of 220 MPH.  Can you imagine hitting another object at that speed?

Even if the other object is moving, it is still a tremendous jolt or impact.

Osprey dive into the water feet first nailing a fish.

Bald eagles snatch at the water to grab a fish without ripping a leg off or loosing flight.

Those are some strong legs and feet.

What about an owl or hawk that may pounce on a rabbit, snake or squirrel as they slam into earth?

And do it with a powerful bone breaking force.

On the prey that is.

Can you imagine that collision?  Now add the crushing grip as the talons sing in.

If you've ever been in an auto accident, or taken a serious fall, than you can just about imagine it.

Just because the birds are smaller doesn't mean the impact is any less for them.

It's not just the feet and sharp talons, but the legs must be strong or they would snap in several pieces on impact.

(Cardinals and other birds feed on snow covered ground with no issues.)

Have you watched a ground feeding bird hop back and forth as it unearths a meal?

What about the power of a woodpecker to stand their as it drills.

Nuthatches that need strong leg bones as it climbs upside down.

Chickadees and Goldfinches that swing upside down and twirl right back up need strong legs too.

Legs and feet that are so strong, they lock in position so perching and sleeping birds wont fall.

Water fowl have webbed feet, but they need something powerful to propel those feet.

What about the strong bones of an Ostrich or Emu as they run from danger or can cause death with one kick of their powerful legs.

You don't think those legs need strong, solid bones?

Great blue herons and other wading birds that stand there on one leg.

If the bones weren't strong and solid, it would snap like a hollow reed.

We don't think about bird legs much do we?

Even turkey legs need to be strong as they scratch away at the earth or run from danger and can push this large bird into flight.

Next time you are really observing your birds, watch how the legs and feet come into play in a birds daily routine.

For standing, hunting, launching into flight, nest building, holding onto seed and other food and much more.

As we age, out legs may get stiff and our joints ache.

But what about our youth?

How many times as a youngster, did you play or work hard one day and you were sore and stiff for the next few days?

We are in our physical prime mind you. Can you imagine what life would be like for a bird if it woke up sore and stiff?

No hunting or feeding for a couple of days.

What if there were young that depended on a successful hunt every day?

Sorry kids, dad is to sore today to go out and hunt.

There is something else special about bird feet and legs.

They help regulate a bird's temperature:

Birds have the ability to increase, and slow down blood flow to the scaly part of the legs and the feet.

In winter, the blood flow to these parts slows way down so there is minimal loss of heat from blood flow.

Notice how the snow isn't melting on this turkey's feet and legs.

No heat loss.

Herons can stand in 40 degree water.

Ducks and geese can swim in water that hasn't formed ice.

Like the picture of these turkeys taken last week, your backyard birds walk around and scratch in the snow.

Notice the snow on the turkey legs, it isn't melting and didn't for the afternoon they were here.

Again I mention............

During cold weather, birds slow down the flow of blood into their lower legs and feet to help prevent the loss of valuable body heat.

Their feet and legs get wet when they drink or bathe.

And you never see one sticking to a mettle feeding perch.


Bird legs don't have pores.

They don't perspire or lose moisture through them like we do,
and moisture can't enter the scaled armor and tough skin.

This is why birds can stand in the snow and hop in a bird bath without freezing there feet off.

Birds can go from the snow or bath to a metal feeder perch with no problems.

If we were to touch a metal perch on some of our winter days, our hand would stick for a short moment (birds don't).

In summer, birds increase blood flow to the legs and feet to help keep them from over heating.

As the blood flows through the legs it rushers near the surface of the cooler outer temperature.

The cooler blood runs back through and does it all over again.

Very much like the radiator on your automobile.

God made the birds as special creatures and as we learn more about them, we have to be more amazed an in awe of His wondrous creations.

One last thing on legs. Hummingbird legs are virtually useless.

Research does show hummer leg bones are indeed hollow.

After all, these light weights of the avian world can't be weighted down now can they?

Well,, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.  God Bless.

"Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Writer

Now from the word of God.

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised".

Hebrews 10:36 

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love him".

James 1:12

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page