Feet and Talons

Bird feet and legs come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Feet are adapted to the particular species' lifestyle and environment, especially for movement and perching. Certain species are adapted to land and others to wetlands and water. Webbing between the toes of many aquatic birds is a distinct mobility adaption for swimming. Feet are essential to preening, holding eggs, climbing trees, and other tasks.

The bird’s foot is comprised of toes. Most birds walk on their toes rather than on the full foot. The most common toe arrangement is anisodactyl, that is, three toes in the front and a hind toe on the rear of the leg. This allows for balance and perching on branches. Adaptations in foot shapes are primary indicators of locomotion, such as running, perching, gripping, tearing or swimming.

Detail of Western Screech-Owl Talons
Gambel’s Quail Callipepla gambelii
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
White Throated Swift
Northern Goshawk