The feet of birds give us clues about their habitat and diet.


These strong feet belong to a raptor or ‘bird of prey’, which are birds that specialise in catching and eating animals, such as fish, lizards and even other birds.


The sharp curved claws enable raptors to snatch and hold onto their prey while flying to a perch where they can dine in peace.

Talons of a Steller's Sea Eagle by 4028mdk09. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia

Red Hawk by Kimberly Tamkun / USFWS. CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia

Red hawk by Peter K Burian. CC BY 4.0 International via Wikimedia

The webbed feet of waterbirds and seabirds act like paddles when they are swimming either above or below the waters’ surface. 

Mallard by Emily Diehl. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia

Blue-footed Booby by putneymark. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia

Some waterbirds have half-webbed feet because they also spend time some time walking on land.

Magpie Goose by Dick Daniels. CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia

Species that spend most of their time hunting flying insects in the air, neither walking nor hopping, usually have very small feet.

Fairy martin by Sandra Gallienne. Used with permissionl

In contrast, those which scratch around on the ground for worms and other invertebrates hidden in the soil typically have large, sturdy feet.


Brush Turkeys are a fine example!

Text © Richard Noske 2019 CC BY-NC-SA


Australian Brush-turkey by Joseph C Boone. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia

More fantastic feet

from Australia and other places

Blue-and-yellow Macaw, also known as the Blue-and-gold Macaw. The macaw is eating a walnut.
Gentoo penguin
Talons, Great Horned Owl (Canada)
Tui foot closeup showing padded sole of foot, toe and claw. Wellington, New Zealand.
The feet of an Congo African Grey Parrot.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) in Kolleru, Andhra Pradesh, India.
American Coot
An Emu's feet showing three toes on each foot. Odsherred Zoo in Denmark.
Kaka parrot foot closeup. Wrights hill, Wellington, New Zealand.
Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), also known as the Willow Grouse - foot. Blefjell, Norway.
African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Field Sparrow

Except where otherwise noted, text for individual bird species is the copyright of Richard Noske and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

Learning Sequences and related Student Activity Sheets are the copyright of Marie Bermingham and Val Catchpoole and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

All audio is used under Creative Commons licences as noted.

Except where otherwise noted, all illustrations are the copyright of Elissa Kimber, all rights reserved.

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