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The Feathered Legs & Feet of Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls, inhabitants of the Arctic, are not only well camouflaged but well insulated with their feathers. Their exceptional density make Snowy Owls North America’s heaviest owl.  Weighing in at about four and a half pounds, they are about a pound heavier than Great Horned Owls and almost twice the weight of Great Gray Owls (North America’s tallest owl).

Most species of owls have densely-feathered legs (exceptions being owls living in southern regions such as Barn Owls, Burrowing Owls, and some tropical species).  Snowy Owls have exceptionally thick feathering on their legs and feet. The toe feathers of a Snowy Owl are the longest known of any owl, averaging 1.3 inches – in comparison, the Great Horned Owl’s (which has the second longest toe feathers) are a mere .5 inch. In addition to their insulative quality,  the feet and leg feathers may also serve to sense contact with prey and to protect against prey that might bite when seized.

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7 responses

  1. Bill on the Hill

    Nice set of slippers methinks… Beautiful photograph Mary as you blocked out the background nicely & you caught the ever so important ” eye “… :~)

    December 14, 2020 at 8:21 am

  2. Alice

    What an AWESOME photo! Snowy Owl feathered talons remind me of furry bunny feet.

    December 14, 2020 at 8:22 am

  3. Keeps them warm! What an incredibly gorgeous shot! 🙂 ❤

    December 14, 2020 at 8:46 am

  4. What a gorgeous photo! I’m glad to hear that their legs and feet are so well insulated. I worry and wonder about the legs of birds in the winter cold.

    December 14, 2020 at 8:59 am

    • I have also worried about birds’ feet! If you google countercurrent heat exchange in birds, you will learn some amazing things! Plus they have so little flesh in their feet – it’s almost all mechanical, so they are OK with being very cold for that reason as well.

      December 14, 2020 at 9:26 am

      • Thanks for this resource re. my “worries” – will check it out!

        December 14, 2020 at 12:32 pm

  5. Cordelia Merritt

    Hi Mary Loved this. They’re such a mysterious bird to me. Can their heavy leg feathering also somewhat mute their flight? And more important – hope are you! and Sophie and the little guys? Cheers Cordie


    December 14, 2020 at 9:23 am

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