Traces of birds in the snow: how they look and what they can tell?

Imprints of feathery limbs from the pastures are important information not only in the process of hunting, but also in the matter of studying their habits. Traces of birds in the snow are the most convenient material, since they retain the most accurate imprint. At first glance, their analysis may seem simple, but it’s not so simple.

  • Traces and prints of paws of birds
    • 1.1 Birds preferring ground movement
    • 1.2Bird of prey
    • 1.3 Waterfowl
    • 1.4 Songbirds
  • 2Ways of bird movement on the ground
  • 3 Birds Feathers on the Ground
  • 4 Birds Breeding

Traces and prints of paws of birds

The peculiarity of bird tracks lies primarily in the huge variety of species of birds. There are more than 10,000 of them. Even the most experienced ornithologist will not be able to memorize so much information.

The complexity of studying fingerprints also comes down to the fact that, unlike animals, birds move not only along the ground, but, accordingly, their visualized trajectory of movement can break off abruptly.
And some species prefer to move only by water, stones or grass, which reduces the likelihood of detecting traces of these birds in the snow or on the ground, to a minimum.

Since it is impossible to study the prints of the paws of all species of birds, it is best to turn your attention to the most common representatives.

Birds preferring ground movement

These birds all the time or the main part of it is carried out on the earth’s surface. For the convenience of movement, their paws are equipped with short compacted fingers and strong claws. This allows them not only to make long walks, but also, if necessary, to dig snow or soil.

Pigeon tracksVivid representatives of such birds are:

  • Curculate. These include wood-grouse, partridge, chicken, turkey, quail and others. The rear finger is the shortest. When walking, it leaves a characteristic mark, as it pierces the surface. Especially such an imprint of a claw is well traced in chick-like birds in winter;
  • Pigeons Their prints are similar to chicken. The difference lies in the rear finger, in which case it is longer. It is also possible to trace the difference in the length of the steps, in pigeons this parameter is shorter than in the ground goose-shaped representatives;
  • Bustard With a sufficiently large size of the bird itself, the impression of its limbs is not quite large, not more than 9-10 cm in width and length. It also looks like a chicken trail, but its fingers are shorter and thicker. If you look at the trail of a wintering bustard, you can find the existing imprint of the central plantar corns;
  • Sandpiper. Like many representatives of birds living in swampy areas, the waders of the sandpiper imply the presence of elongated thin fingers. The short rear finger also leaves a groove on the surface. But there are species in which it is completely absent. Usually this is typical for sandpipers living in the steppe expanses: lapwing, plover, and plover. Their trail is always three-toed;
  • Heron. The imprint of a bird may have the appearance of an uneven, slightly sloping cross. This is explained by the fact that all four fingers are well developed, and when walking they are widely spaced. All of them are equipped with thin and long claws.

Predator birds

This species of birds is known as predatory, as it can feed on insects, and sometimes even small rodents. On their prints are visible all 4 fingers, which are characterized by embossed corns. Since each of their fingers is equipped with a long, strong, curved claw, the holes left by them can be clearly seen on the tracks. They may be slightly inward. This is due to the structure of the legs, convenient for a long stay in the trees. Examples of this type of bird include:

  • Owl. The print of her paws resembles the shape of the letter “K”. Two fingers look forward, two back. The rear finger is sometimes closer to the center;
  • Woodpecker. It has a similar print with an owl. But it can be distinguished by the length of the first two fingers on the inside, they are much shorter. But the exterior is quite long;
  • Lun Its distinguishing feature is that the rear finger is mobile and changes its direction. This fact makes their limb prints a bit confusing for the tracker.


Due to their lifestyle, they are characterized by the presence of swimming membranes.

Waterfowl FootprintsWaterfowl species are:

  • Copepods: pelican, cormorant, gannet. The webbing connects all 4 fingers;
  • Flamingo, gull, anseriformes. 3 front fingers are connected;
  • The terns. The membranes are shortened in size.


The habitat of such birds is closely connected with thickets of bushes, trees of tall grasses. Therefore, the structure of their limbs allow them to be on the branches, thin stems. Songbirds include:

  • Nuthatch. The posterior claw is rather long and curved;
  • Lark The claw of the rear finger, in contrast, has a straight form. The fingers are set wide apart.

Movement of birds on the ground

For most birds, flight is the main mode of movement. They spend their time in different ways:

  • Chistyaki, petrels, conjugals. They prefer to be on stony rocks;
  • Loon Spend time on the water, and if necessary, move on the ground crawling;
  • Swifts. Also, more time is located on rocks, caves or on the walls of buildings;
  • Oriole. Feels great on the branches of trees and does not like to descend on a hard surface.

But there are also birds for which the movement on the ground or snow does not pose any difficulty. They can walk or jump:

  • Walking is preferred by those species that nest on the ground. These are goose-shaped, seagulls, bustards, pigeons, sandgrouses;
  • Horse racing is typical for those who are localized mainly in the trees: woodpeckers, sparrows, tits, cuckoos, jays, magpies;
  • Combining both types of walking. Birds of prey often alternate steps with jumps. And also it is easy to switch to a pile of crows, jackdaws, rooks.

Walking birds can control the speed of their movement. This can be measured walking or fast running. The remaining prints, especially winter ones, can immediately be said about this, since the distance between the tracks increases dramatically. In jumping birds, the tempo does not change much. The prints of the paws are either on the same level or one slightly ahead. In this case, the push from the ground with both limbs occurs simultaneously.

Such large species as geese, ducks or swans almost never run. The exception is their frightened state.

Bird feathers on the ground

The bird feathers found are not uncommon. They can talk about the condition of the bird, because if a feather is found, for example, a black grouse, which spontaneously never falls out, it is possible that the bird was injured, clinging to something. And if too many feathers of one individual are found, it is likely that she was the victim of a predatory animal attack.

Singly scattered feathers often talk about the process of moult feathered. Usually they are characterized by a worn condition, especially on the outer edge. It looks uneven and shabby. It should be borne in mind that after molting, some species are not quite characteristic of their color. For example, the finch acquires its characteristic bright color only by spring.

Bird chases

Pieces are undigested food residues spat out by the bird. As a rule, they contain feathers, wool, small bones, scales, shells, hard seeds. In appearance, they represent dense clumps of oval or rounded shapes. Their study does not cause any harm to birds.

Leaving the castings is very characteristic of birds of prey that eat small vertebrate creatures with wool or feathers. So, for example, owls and owls eat entire prey at all, therefore, it is quite easy to assess the contents of their willows. You can wait for this lump in 2-3 days after the owl swallowed food.

Eagle owlsIn order to detect the pellets of a certain species of bird, it is best to examine the area near its nest. But do not hurry and disturb individuals, if they are at this time inside their shelter. You can wait a few days, during this time the pellets will not deteriorate. If they are very small in size, then most likely they were left by the chicks.

In addition to carnivorous birds, pellets dump species that feed on:

  • small fish. Kingfisher, chomga, gull. But pelicans, herons and cormorants are able to digest food completely;
  • insects. Cuckoo, swift, shurka. These are usually remnants of hard integuments of beetles, hairs or membranes;
  • fruits with stones. Starling prefers to spit out the bones, but the thrush, on the contrary, eats them completely.

There are birds and omnivores, in their pogadki a very diverse composition: from insect residues to large fruit pits. Vivid representatives of such birds are crows and magpies.

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