Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Birds Toes and Feet

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biological, Evolution

Ed  Hessler

A recent article in the StarTribune by Jim Williams (12/29/2021) on bird toes and feet made me think about birds as a whole animal, not just parts like beaks, wings and feathers that tend to attract our attention. Their feet and toes are worth considering--taking a hard, sustained look at. But it takes some patience and time to observe those feet in the outdoors. However, some museums often include exhibits with birds, e.g., the Bell Museum and the outdoor store, Cabela's have small mini-museums of wildlife.

And of course there is the children's book by Laurie Ellen Angus, "Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feed are Neat" which pays attention to feet and toes.The Amazon description sets the challenge: "Become a bird watching detective, discovering clues about where a bird lives, how it moves, and what it eats by looking at feet." And the link to the book notes that the book includes additional "photos and information as well what inspired the" author to write the book.

Or if you prefer to listen and to see the illustrations to the Angus book, this video (6m 09s) features Mrs. Sumter reading the book to her virtual classroom. That's us.

These are some places to start and who knows where this will lead. Williams piques our interest with a few observations about hopping and running as well as a relationship between leg length and whether a bird walks or hops or runs. Some birds may surprise you by doing both and this may lead to observations about what may have initiated the choice. As you watch you are likely to begin to notice other behaviors, too, e.g., head-bobbing as birds walk, e.g., pigeons. Is this true of all the birds you see? Most of all you can begin to ask questions about what you are observing.

As Williams writes in closing, "You can lean a lot about a bird by looking at its feet," a focused re-statement of the more general one made famous by Yogi Berra. "You can observe a lot by just watching."                                                                                                    

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