Other Birds - Sounds Wild
Bare Feet, Feathered Feet!


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Bare feet, feathered feet

Alaskan owls, such as screech owls, great horned owls and snowy owls, have feathered legs. In fact, snowy owls and great horned owls have feathers on their feet and toes, right down to their talons. That would be like having thick fur on your hands, right down to your fingernails. Because they live and hunt in very cold weather, they need a little more coverage and insulation. Feathers also offer some protection from prey animals that might bite when caught.

Ptarmigan have feathers on their feet that act as snowshoes, distributing their weight so they can walk more easily on the winter snows. Other birds in Alaska have feathered legs and feet, but not bald eagles. Bald eagles have bare legs, and you can easily see their bright yellow, scaly legs, called tarsals. Bare legs are better suited to this than feathered legs. Not only would their feathers get wet and soggy when they're hunting, the slime and fish scales would stick to the fluffy feathers. Unfeathered feet are easier to clean. Bald eagles don't have feathered legs, but they have something extra - rough scales on the soles of their feet -just like ospreys- which help them better grip fish.

Golden eagles do have feathered legs, and that's a sure giveaway if you're comparing an immature bald eagle to a golden eagle.

There is a group of owls known as fish owls - Asian owls that are adapted to catching fish. And just like fish-eating eagles, these owls have bare legs for a fish-eating lifestyle, and bare feet with the same adaptations for catching and holding fish.