Owl Feet & Talons
|Compiled by Deane Lewis Updated 2014-12-24 Created 1999-03-20|
Many Owl species have feathered
feet to protect them from cold weather. The feathers
may also serve to sense contact with prey, and to protect against prey that
might bite when seized.
An Owl's foot has four toes. When
in flight, and sometimes when perching, 3 of these toes face forward, and one backwards. When perched, or
clutching prey, the outer front toe on each foot swivels to face the rear.
It is able to do this because of a unique flexible joint.
Owl's talons are very powerful,
as they are used to capture prey. The bony structures in an Owl's feet are
shorter and stronger than the equivalent bones in other birds. This is in
order to withstand the force of an impact with prey.
When attacking prey, the talons are spread out wide to increase the chance
of a successful strike.
The actual length, thickness and
colour of the talons varies greatly with Owl species, but all have very
sharp claws. Colour may vary from near-black to pale grey or ivory.
The underside of an Owl's foot is
covered with a rough, nobby surface that helps grip prey or a perch. Barn
Owls have a serration on the underside of their middle toe which
may help grip
prey and also aids grooming.
As with other birds of prey, Owls
have the locking, ratchet-like mechanism in their foot which keeps the toes
locked around a perch or prey without the need for the muscles to remain
In some Owl species, it is
thought that the feet help to regulate body temperature. Excess body heat is
radiated through the soles of the feet, which are supplied with extra blood
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