Bird Feet

We’ve talked about bird wings and bird beaks, now we’ll move on to feet.  Just as bird beaks are adapted to the type of food the bird prefers, so are their feet.  The feet enable the bird to get to where their food is located.  Running feet won’t work for a duck, nor will webbed feet help a woodpecker.

Let’s think about some different birds and their feet.  Great blue herons have long legs for wading in wetlands and their long toes help them balance in mud and watery ooze.  Ducks have paddling feet for propulsion through water but those broad feet also make great landing “boards” for splashdowns in lakes and rivers.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

 

Woodpeckers are unique among perching birds.  Most perching birds need three forward facing toes and and one backward facing toe for grasping tree branches.  Their feet operate like your first three fingers and opposing thumb.  Woodpeckers have two forward facing toes and two backward toes for climbing up and down tree trunks.  This arrangement also gives them stability and counter balance when they are drumming their beaks against the hard bark of the tree.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

 

Take a close look at the toes.  Two forward, two backward.

Take a close look at the toes. Two forward, two backward.

 

Activity:  Find a book, coloring book, encyclopedia, or bird identification guide that has a lot of photos of different types of birds.  Cover up all of the photo except the feet.  Have your child try to figure out what type of food the bird would eat just by looking at their feet.  With perching birds kids might guess seeds, insects, worms, etc. and those are all acceptable answers.

If you’re keeping a log of birds in your yard you can use that list to talk about feet.  Make some drawings for your nature journal of different bird feet and list how that foot type is adapted to help the bird eat.

 

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