Fantastic Feet of Birds
Birds use their feet for a wide variety of activities like climbing, running, hunting, walking on water, incubating eggs, improvised fishing lures, and even temperature control. Here are a just few amazing photos of their fantastic feet.
Some of the smallest feet of all birds belong to the hummingbirds. Just look at how tiny the feet are compared to the thumb in the photo. Absolutely amazing!
On the other end of the spectrum is the African Jacana. They are in the family jacanidae which have huge feet and claws that allow them to walk on floating vegetation. When spread out, a jacana’s toes can cover an area up to 5 by 8 inches!
Ever wonder why a penguin can walk on the snow and ice barefoot?
When our muscles get really cold, they have a hard time operating. This is also true for a penguin. The muscles that operate their feet are not located in their feet , but instead are located deeper in the warmer regions of the body. The penguin’s feet are moved by tendons. So no matter how cold the feet get, they still can be operated normally by a form of remote operation from regions of the body that are at normal temperature.
Penguins have developed a special blood flow through the feet that prevents the rest of the body from cooling down and also helps to remove excess heat when it’s really warm out. The warm blood entering the feet basically flows past the cold blood leaving. This warms up the colder blood so that by the time it re-enters the rest of the body, it’s warm enough that it doesn’t have a huge impact on the penguin’s core body temperature.
The blood flow is finely adjusted so the penguin’s feet never get below freezing. When the temperature is very cold outside, the blood flow is very low which helps to reduce the heat loss even further.
This same principle also works to help the penguin keep cool when it’s warm out. When the penguin needs to lose heat, the blood flow is increased allowing more warm blood to enter the feet and cool quickly getting rid of excess heat.
The American Coot has unique lobed toes. Like the penguin, these birds use their feet to conduct heat out of their body. A study was done to see just how effective this was.
By immersing their feet in water, coots were able to tremendously increase their rate of heat loss and very quickly cool down when experimentally subjected to a temperature increase from 50 degrees to 104 degrees F.
The feet of the Blue-footed Booby can range from a pale turquoise to a deep aquamarine. During courtship, the male will dance and flaunt his pretty blue feet. Love the color!
The feet of many different owls are covered in feathers. This helps protect their feet from the cold, but can also be beneficial when hunting. The feathers help the owl sense when it contacts its prey. The feathers help to protect the owls feet from prey that may try to bite.
An owl’s foot has four toes. When in flight, 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 because of a unique flexible joint.
The Pelican’s webbed feet helps propel them through the water. Unlike most birds, which warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe, essentially standing on the eggs to warm them.
The Snowy Egret uses its feet to find food. This beautiful bird will use its feet to stir, rake and probe for food. The Snowy Egret will often run after its food, so those long toes help with stability and balance. Some believe that the Snowy Egret’s bright yellow toes help them act as an improvised lure when the egret quivers it foot on the surface of the water.
Most birds have three toes facing front and one toe facing back, but this Hairy Woodpecker has feet designed for climbing the sides of trees. This woodpecker has two toes facing forward and two toes facing backwards. By the way, the bird in the above photo is alive. It was just being banded.
The Wedge-tailed Eagle, sometimes called an Eaglehawk is Australia’s largest bird of prey. It belongs to the group of eagles called “True Eagles” or “Booted Eagles” because their legs are feathered right down to their ankles.
Their feet are incredible strong. The force of the strike, combined with the crushing power of the eagle’s massive talons, is usually enough to kill their prey instantaneously.
The ostrich is the only that has just two toes. This helps make the foot streamlined for running. Their longest toe corresponds to the middle toe of most other birds. This toe also has a long claw which can be used as a very effective weapon.
Sometimes, birds get injured. Fortunately there are wonderful people out there that can and will help. This Red-tailed Hawk is being rehabilitated. It had an injured claw that developed a serious infection so it had to be removed. With the help of professionals, hopefully this bird will return to the wild.
If you have any photos of birds feet that you would like to share, leave a link in the comments!