A bird's feet are carefully designed to meet their needs. We can tell alot about where birds spend their time and how they like to feed by looking at their claws.

Have a think...!

Have a think about how different feet are suitable for different tasks. Look at these pictures... can you match them to the correct bird. Why do you think each foot would be suitable for each bird?

The duck needs feet that
he can use to paddle along
in the water.
The pigeon clings on to
branches, and hops
along the ground.
The woodpecker clings on
to the trunk of trees.
The eagle needs strong claws
to grasp it's prey.
The sparrow perches on
small branches
The heron spends it time
wading (walking) through
water and mud.

Scroll down the page to check your answers.

How did you do?

Can you see how important it is for birds to have different feet, that suit their needs, be it swimming or clinging on to small branches?

Below is a description of the different types of feet birds could have, and what they are needed for.
After reading each description can you think of some birds that would need each type of foot?


Description of the legs

Description of Bird Behaviour

Gliding Birds

Tiny short legs, and delicate feet
These birds spend most of their time hovering or gliding through the air. They feed while
they're flying and don't land very often.
As these feet and legs are so delicate it is not easy for these birds to walk.

Perching Birds

Flexible feet with three toes in front, one behind
These birds spend most of their time perched on small branches, so they need feet
that will wrap around the branch and hold on tight.
These birds hop along the ground.

Swimming Birds

Webbed feet
The toes on webbed feet are linked with skin. This skin turns the feet into paddles and
helps the bird to propel themselves smoothly and quickly through the water.
Webbed feet make waking difficult. Birds with webbed feet waddle when then walk.

Wading Birds

Long skinny legs, long wide claws.
Wading birds need to walk through water or mud. They need long, skinny legs to
keep their bodies clear of the water. The birds long toes spreads the bird's weight
over a large surface area, which allows it to walk on soft surfaces near the water's
edge where they like to eat.

Hunting Birds

Large hooklike claws (talons)
The widely spaced, grasping four toes of hunting birds are ideal for hunting other birds,
small mammals and fish. The strong claws (or talons) allow them to grasp and hold onto struggling prey.

Walking and Scratching Birds

Short legs with blunt claws
Scratching birds have four toes with strong nails used to dig into dirt to find insects.

Climbing Birds

Two toes in front, two behind, with sharp claws
Climbing birds have two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward. This allows the
bird to climb trees to find insects, its food source.

Running Birds

Long muscular legs, and
strong feet with three toes facing forward.
Some birds rely on their ability to run since they are flightless birds. These kinds of birds
usually have three toes facing forward with sharp talons used for defense and for digging.
They also have strong legs, allowing them to run fast.

Look at these pictures.

Based on their feet, what do you think isthe birds main behaviour?


Now look closely at the photos on the photo gallery page. Can you tell any think about the birds' behaviour by looking at their feet?



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