While driving the auto tour road at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, my photography friend passed by and alerted me to a Red-shouldered Hawk perched near the road. I drove to that spot and managed to get a close-up of the hawk. If you examine the picture closely, you will notice that the hawk is standing on one leg. You can even see a little of the raised leg sticking out of its breast area.

Red-shouldered Hawk Standing On One Leg

Red-shouldered Hawk Standing On One Leg

The Science Behind One-Legged Perching

Hawks, like many other birds, stand on one leg to conserve body heat. This helps prevent the loss of body heat, particularly in cold weather, as a bird’s legs and feet are not covered in feathers and are a significant area for heat loss. By standing on one leg, birds reduce the amount of exposed skin by about half, thus conserving body heat. This is a common behavior in long-legged birds such as herons, ducks, geese, gulls, shorebirds, and hawks. Additionally, some birds may also stand on one leg to rest or due to an injury to the other leg. Therefore, the primary reasons for hawks standing on one leg are to conserve body heat and for resting purposes.

Image Information:

  • Date: 12/04/23
  • Time: 09:01 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS R7
  • Lens: Canon RF 800mm F11
  • ISO: 640
  • Aperture: 11
  • Shutter: 1/1000
  • Exp. Comp.: 0
  • Lens (mm): 800
  • Program Mode: Manual