Do Birds Get Cold Feet?

Did you ever wonder if your backyard birds get cold feet? Actually, they do get cold feet: the surface temperature of their toes may be barely above freezing even as the bird maintains its core body temperature above 100°F. Still most birds do not succumb to frostbite because there is so little fluid in their feet and because their circulation is so fast that their blood does not remain in the feet long enough to freeze.

We don't know if cold feet bothers birds. We do know that they have few pain receptors in their feet and they have a counter-current heat exchange system in their legs. The veins and arteries going to and from the feet are very close together, so blood flowing back to the body is warmed by blood flowing to the feet. The newly cooled blood in the feet lowers heat loss from the feet and the warmed blood flowing back into the body prevents the bird from becoming chilled. Pretty amazing little creatures!