Walk, swim, cling, climb, paddle, jump, dig, hold – animal feet do all these things and more! Animal feet come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common … the way they work enables different species of animals to survive in their different habitats.
Wonderful Webbed Feet
Water birds like ducks, geese, and seagulls have short legs and webbed feet that help propel them in water. Some animals, such as water turtles and river otters, spend only part of their lives in the water, but their webbed feet help them escape predators, swim, and capture prey.
Some birds, called wading birds, have long legs and long, thin toes that help them walk in wetlands and marshy areas without sinking. The great blue heron – the largest heron in North America – and the American coot are two examples of wading birds inhabiting Lake Gaston.
“A walk in the woods is a great place to see how animals use their feet to climb trees and grab onto branches,” wrote Marianne Wallace in the July 2003 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. “The toes of tree frogs have sticky pads that help in climbing trees and other vegetation in their habitat. Feet that end in sharp claws make it easier for squirrels to climb trees, and ankles twist around make it as easy to climb down headfirst as it is to climb up. Their forefeet work similar to human hands as the squirrels grip branches and hold onto acorns and other food.”
Pretty and Powerful Perching Birds
Perching birds, or passerines, have feet specialized with three toes pointed forward and one pointed backward so they can perch or sit easily in a tree or bush. Their strong feet have grippy toes and are typically small and featherless. Cardinals, pine warblers, Carolina wrens, and belted kingfishers are just some of the perching birds that inhabit this area.
Birds of prey, or raptors, also have feet used for perching, but their toes have large strong claws called talons. The talons grip and kill prey animals. Hawks, bald eagles, owls, vultures, and osprey are all examples of birds on the lake with powerful talons.
“Some animals of woodlands and meadows use their clawed feet in other ways,” wrote Wallace. “Moles use the strong claws on their forefeet to dig underground tunnels as they hunt for earth worms, insects, and other things to eat. Bears also have strong claws on their feet, using them to dig for food, climb trees and even catch fish.”
Animal feet are really neat so get outside and check them out!