Burien, Washington

 

 

 

Mewsings from Millie

 

Hello, and welcome once again to my musings!

Being a cat, I am naturally curious. I love to learn new things and I'm always amazed by what I learn about birds and nature in general.

For instance, do you know why flamingos stand on one leg? It's to keep the other leg warm!

Speaking of staying warm, have you ever wondered (I know I have) what birds do on long, chilly nights? I learned on KNKX's Birdnote that they don't snuggle down in cozy little nests. The only time of year when birds sleep in nests is when they are sitting on eggs or keeping their young warm. During the rest of the year, birds seek out a roosting spot. Songbirds find a protected place to perch that is out of the rain and safe from nocturnal predators. Small forest birds may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Ducks float in protected bays, woodpeckers cling to vertical tree trunks and crows gather together to roost in communes.

Birds fluff up their feathers for insulation and often crouch down over their legs and feet to keep them toasty. Counter to what most of us believe, birds cannot tuck their heads under their wings to sleep. But they can turn their heads and poke their beaks under their shoulder feathers to keep their beaks warm.

I also found out why birds' tiny feet don't freeze and stick to metal perches and why ducks' feet don't freeze and stick to the ice. Birds' feet are not much more than bone, sinew and scale with very few nerves. A fine pattern of arteries called "rete mirabile" carries warm blood from the bird's heart and interweaves it with the veins carrying cold blood from the feet and legs. This interweaving warms the cold blood before it reaches the heart and keeps the legs and feet warm. Also, birds' feet don't have sweat glands, so they stay dry. That is why they don't freeze and stick to things.

Until next time,

Millie

The Muse of Mews