David Gifford Photography

Do Gulls Get Frostbite?

I photographed these Common Gulls standing on a frozen loch during the recent cold period. It got me thinking, why don’t bird’s un-feathered un-insulated feet freeze?

To answer my question I turned to my New Scientist reference book, “Why Don’t Penguins Feet Freeze? (And 114 other questions)”! The answer, from what I can surmise, is that cold-weather birds have ‘counter-current heat exchangers’ between blood vessels at the top of their legs. This allows them to keep enough blood flowing to their feet to prevent frostbite, whilst retaining warmth in their bodies.

For a fuller & better explanation, see this interesting blog post on the subject: http://eccentricscientist.wordpress.com/2007/01/13/why-dont-ducks-get-frostbite/

Image #303