PAWS Wild Again

Inspiring stories about the PAWS Wildlife Center and the animals we serve

January 11th, 2006   

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Amazing “Feets”
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

The August 24, 2005 edition of Wild Again titled “Profiles of Diversity” featured close-up head photos of 14 different bird species. The article was intended to give readers a glimpse of the variation that is present in the more than 240 species of animals that the PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has treated. The intent of today’s article is the same, although it approaches the diversity issue from an entirely different, and much lower angle.

The following 14 photos feature the feet of select avian patients that we have treated here at PAWS. The original photos showed the birds perching, walking, or being held for exams, but in order to give you the best possible view of the feet, I have used a computer program to digitally erase everything else. Please note that the photos are not to scale (i.e. some of these feet are larger in real life, and some are smaller). Look closely at each photo and you will notice marked differences in the toe arrangement, claw shape/size, digit length, scale/feather pattern, and other attributes.

Raven- These strikingly dark feet belong to a Common Raven.

Red-tailed Hawk- The feet of this Red-tailed Hawk are equipped with strong talons for grasping prey. The right leg is also equipped with a PAWS band.

Golden Eagle- These Golden Eagle feet are like larger, more powerful versions of the Red-tailed Hawk feet. Also, notice the heavily feathered legs.

Bald Eagle- The Bald Eagle also has large feet with impressive talons. If you note the difference in leg feathering, they are easily distinguished from the feet of the Golden Eagle. The silver object on the bird’s right leg is a federal band.

Short-eared Owl- Most owls have fluffy feathers covering their legs and the tops of their digits. Since a soft edge moves through air much more quietly than a hard edge, these feathers may enhance their ability to fly silently. The foot of a Short-eared Owl is pictured above.

Snowy Owl- The feathering on this Snowy Owl’s foot is even more extreme. It likely helps to insulate the bird against the cold. This photo shows the bottom of the owl’s foot. Note that there is only a tiny patch that remains relatively unfeathered.

Red-breasted Sapsucker- This Red-breasted Sapsucker's foot shows the sharp claws and distinctive shape of a typical woodpecker foot.

Vaux’s Swift- The long, sharp nails on this Vaux’s Swift's foot aid the bird in clinging to vertical surfaces in tree trunks and chimneys.

Least Sandpiper- These legs and feet belong to a Least Sandpiper. Sandpipers spend a lot of their time at the water’s edge, walking quickly in search of their invertebrate prey. This bird actually has three forward-facing digits on each foot, although only two are visible in the photo.

Mew Gull- These pink Mew Gull feet possess webbing between the three forward-facing digits. A rear-facing digit is visible on the back of the leg, but it is greatly reduced.

Laysan Albatross- This Laysan Albatross also has three webbed, forward-facing digits, but no rear-facing digit is apparent.

Brown Pelican- The foot of this Brown Pelican has webbing stretched between all four digits.

American Coot- These remarkable lobed feet belong to an American Coot.

Western Grebe- Possibly the most unique feet we see at the center, this pair belongs to a Western Grebe. This is the view you would see if the bird was swimming away from you. The toes are heavily lobed, and the legs are flattened and streamlined. The legs connect to the rear of the body, making for great propulsion underwater, but poor mobility on land.

Wild animals released between November 29th and December 31st, 2005:

  • 1 Glaucous-winged Gull
  • 1 American Robin
  • 1 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 1 Glaucous-winged Gull
  • 1 Herring Gull
  • 1 Rock Pigeon
  • 1 Black-tailed Deer
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 Varied Thrush
  • 1 Great Horned Owl
  • 1 Raccoon
  • 1 Western Screech Owl

568 wild animals have been released since the beginning of 2005.
Thanks to all of you for helping to make these releases possible!

All rights reserved. 2005 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

A Northwest leader in protecting animals since 1967, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers people to demonstrate compassion and respect for animals in their daily lives.