About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Why Don't Birds Feet Freeze?

My dad insisted the bird feeder I bought couldn't have metal perches because he didn't want the birds to get stuck to them during the winter. You explained it to me in the store why that wouldn't happen. Can you explain it again so I can show my dad?

By the way I eventually bought the tube feeder with the clear rubber covers and the easy clean bottom that had that forever guarantee and my dad said I did good. Thank you very much. Portland, MI

Unlike humans, birds don’t have sweat glands in their skin to produce any moisture to freeze to metal in the winter. Heat and moisture are accumulated in sacs, transferred to the lungs and eliminated through the mouth.
But the feet are still vunerable to the cold and they actually use several tricks to keep their legs from freezing. First they can stand on one leg and pull the other up under their feathers when one leg starts getting too cold. And if it gets really cold, they can squat to cover both legs with breast feathers. If you see a bird doing this, they may be getting uncomfortably cold legs.

Also birds’ feet are mostly bone and tendons, so unlike mammals, they have a limited supply of nerves, blood vessels or muscles to freeze. And their feet are covered with scales which isn’t a living tissue and less susceptible to freezing.

I'm glad your dad approved of the feeder. Tell him I said he has good taste. That was the new Wild Birds Unlimited Quick-Clean™ Seed Tube Feeder. A quick press of two buttons and the base pops off for easy cleaning. The feeder attracts a variety of birds such as finches, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice. It comes with a lifetime guarantee that includes raccoon and squirrel damage which is a testament to the feeder's quality. The tube is made from a UV-stabilized, clear polycarbonate that protects the food from the sun's rays and won't yellow with age. Also as with most of the Wild Birds Unlimited products it’s made in the USA!


  1. I'm so glad that this question was posted because I have often wondered about birds and their little feet when ever I saw them hopping around on Icy ground.

    I aware that Mother nature must have designed them with special feet, but I never found out the biological or scientific answer to how this is done...

    I'm so glad there's an expert on hand to answer these question for us... I love this website.

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying the website. Friday is my photo share day. If you ever have photos or specific questions, feel free to send them to bloubird@gmail.com.

  3. Birds’ feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for "wonderful net" — is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird’s heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs.

  4. WOW! I am an older grandmother that has always worried about the wild bird's legs and feet; until now. This is a fabulous web site and is very interesting with the comments posted too. A friend that I had when younger had a bird that had a leg to drop off one day in her house. I have No idea what happened to that bird's leg and why this happened; But it further confused me about birds in the winter. Thank you So much for the informative web site!

  5. Thank you Google for sending me to this site. It's -50 right now (windchill) and I was watching my little birdies nibble on seed outside my window....and wondered about their feet....... Now I know! I guess I don't need to get an extension cord and heating pad! LOL!