- The robin's long back toe allows it to grasp small branches and perch safely.Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
The most common type of bird foot belongs to perching birds, or song birds. This foot structure, called anisodactyl, includes independent, flexible toes with three facing forward and one facing back. This structure allows birds like wrens, sparrows, robins and thrushes to easily rest on trees and shrubs branches. The long back toe grasps the branch, and when the bird sits, a tendon flexes that locks all the toes into place so the bird does not fall when it sleeps.
Birds of Prey
- Herons have long toes that allow them to walk easily along muddy banks.Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
Birds who spend most or part of their lives in aquatic habitats have specialized feet. Gulls and ducks have webbing, or thin skin, between their toes. For birds that have webbing between all four toes, like the cormorant, this is known as totipalmate. Ducks have palmate feet, meaning only the front tree toes have webbing. Wading birds, like herons, have long toes with three facing forward and one facing backward. The large surface area of these feet helps the birds walk on soft surfaces near the edge of water.
- The woodpecker has two two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward, which helps it climb trees.Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Scratching birds, like pheasants and chickens, have four toes with strong nails used to dig into dirt to find insects. The woodpecker has zygodactyl feet with two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward. This allows the bird to climb trees to find insects, its food source. The belted kingfisher has syndactyl feet. This means the two middle toes are joined together. Birds like the ostrich and cassowary 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.