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
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
Red-breasted Sapsucker- This
Red-breasted Sapsucker's foot shows the sharp
claws and distinctive shape of a typical woodpecker
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
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
rights reserved. ©2005 Progressive Animal
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.