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BirdNote: Why Birds' Feet Don't Freeze

Copyright Mike Hamilton

Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile - Latin for "wonderful net" - is a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird's heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs.

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