If you think you are cold these days, imagine being one of those gulls standing around on the ice on Lake Champlain! Wouldn't you think it would be cold for them, swimming around in that cold water, and climbing out on the ice? Of course they have fabulous insulation with their body feathers, but how do they keep those feet from freezing off?
If you notice, the muscles of their legs are all high up on the leg, underneath the feathers. Those skinny little bird legs sticking out are mostly bone, tendon, and scaley skin. And as Naturalist Charlie Browne tells us, they have another special arrangement worked out.
"They have a very special arrangement with their blood vessels. It's called counter current exchange. In their legs, their veins and ateries are positions right next to each other, and what that means is that the warm blood coming from the interior of the body, runs through arteries out to the extremeties, right next to the cool blood returning, from those extremeties. The cool blood gets heated on the way in, and so the feet don't freeze. The feet are cooler than the rest of the body, but they never get so cold that they freeze to the ice."
On Lake Champlain in the winter time, you can often find ring billed gulls, and herring gulls, and sometimes a great black backed gull! They can survive in this icy situation, but they do like to have open water so they can hunt for food. They'll eat small fish, other small animals, and even some plant food. If there is too much ice, not to worry. As we all know, gulls are effective scavengers. They will move inland and eat almost anything, almost anywhere.
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