Friday, August 03, 2012


Well, that was quick. I posted the photo of feet at 12:44 yesterday morning, and 10 minutes later, Paul in Powell River had the answer. The right answer; yes, it was a young sandhill crane, a colt.

Two youngsters saw us on one of the paths on Reifel Island, and came running when I rattled my bag of goodies. Laurie took photos, while I tried to tempt them to come closer. About 1 meter was their limit. I was already crouched, making myself small and non-threatening, so I looked at feet.

The pair of sandhill colts.

It's surprising how some of the most beautiful birds have such unlovely feet.

I noticed something odd about the sandhills' toes. Like most birds, there are four on each foot, arranged with three forward, one pointing back. But look at that rear toe. It's barely a stub, and I can't see any sign of a toenail.

Compare it to a Great Blue heron's rear toes:

Heron, Cougar Creek

... and his feet.

The heron has full-size rear toes, suitable for perching in trees or standing on slippery logs. The sandhill crane has to rely on those front toes only. Is this why I've never seen one in a tree?

And here's a Black Crowned Night Heron, another wader that sleeps in trees.

Long, almost prehensile toes, front and rear.

A few useful links:


  1. Good going Paul! He's a whiz with birds and critters, and tugs of course. - Margy

  2. I REALLY enjoyed this quiz.

    I didn't submit a guess, 'cause I was already spending too much time on the web looking for shots of wading bird feet, but I very much appreciate the inspiration to look closely at something I frequently overlook (no pun intended).

    So, thank you for that, and the subsequent attribution of WHY different birds' feet are constructed differently.

    Solid posts. =) Nice work!


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