In this article, we will look at ten birds that have long legs. These birds have evolved to have these long legs for a good reason. Their legs help them wade through shallow water when looking for food or to stand above the tall grass to hunt for their prey.
Bush stone curlew
Weight 625 – 670 g (1.4 – 1.5 lbs)
Height 55 cm (1.8 ft)
Wingspan 1 m (3.3 ft)
Clutch size 2 eggs
The Bush stone-curlew is a ground-dwelling bird from Australia, also known as the iben bird or bush thick-knee. They have streaked feathers coloured white, brown and black. They are nocturnal birds that feed on insects, frogs, lizards, mice and snakes.
During the day, they hide amongst tall grass or shrubs. If disturbed, they freeze and remain motionless, camouflaging themselves against the woodland floor. This is usually enough to fool predators that hunt using eyesight.
If the predator hunts using its sense of smell like a fox, its feathered camouflage won’t be enough. The curlew will try to sneak slowly away into the undergrowth, hugging the ground. It will use flight as a last resort to escape any danger.
Weight 2- 4 kg (4.4 – 8.8 lbs)
Height 1.1 – 1.5 m (3.6 – 5 ft)
Wingspan 1.4 – 1.7 m (4.6 – 5.6 ft)
Clutch size 1 egg
Flamingos are well known for their pink legs and feathers, but did you know that flamingos are not born pink? The chicks are, in fact, born with grey feathers. Flamingos are turned pink by the algae and brine shrimp they eat, as they contain a pink pigment that their body metabolises.
Greater flamingos are the largest of the four species of flamingo. They are found in Africa, the middle east, the Indian sub-continent and southern Europe. They inhabit large alkaline and saline lakes. They typically don’t migrate. Only populations that breed at lakes at high altitudes will move to lower lakes when the water starts to freeze.
Weight 63 – 140 kg (139 – 309 lbs)
Height 1.7 – 2.8 m (5.5 – 9.2 ft)
Wingspan 2 m (6.5 ft)
Clutch size 12 – 18 eggs
Ostriches are the largest birds in the world and are native to Africa. Because of their large size, they are flightless and nest on the ground. Their eggs are 15.25 cm (6 in) long and weigh 1.4 kg (3 lbs). That’s the equivalent of 24 average size chicken eggs.
It is a common belief that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger. This is a myth, as they will use their strong legs to run from any predators at a speed of up to 30 – 43 mph. They are the fastest bird alive. At this speed, they can outrun most predators.
Weight 2.3 – 4.3 kg (5 – 9.5 lbs)
Height 0.9 – 1.2 m (3 – 4 ft)
Wingspan 1.2 – 1.35 m (4 – 4.4 ft)
Clutch size 3 eggs
The secretary bird is a large bird of prey native to Africa. It has an eagle-like body but has long crane-like legs and crest feathers on top of its head in the shape of a crown. Their population is in decline due to habitat destruction and hunting.
Birds of prey usually hunt from the air, but not the secretary bird it hunts at ground level. They walk around looking for insects, snakes and other small animals. They don’t peck their prey. Instead, they stamp them to death. They can strike with over five times their body weight which is impressive as their talons are only in contact with the animal for ten milliseconds.
Weight 6.8 – 7.8 kg (15 – 17 lbs)
Height 1.5 – 1.8 m (5- 5.9 ft)
Wingspan 2.4 m (7.9 ft)
Clutch size 2 eggs
The sarus crane holds the crown for being the tallest flying bird in the world. They live in the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and northern Australia. They live in wetlands and marshes where they feed on crustaceans, insects, roots, tubers and other small animals.
They have grey plumage apart from their bare head and legs that are red, and the head is covered in rough skin. The sarus crane mates for life, and during the breeding season, they perform a dance courtship with dance moves that include jumping and bowing.
Weight 1 – 2 kg (2.2 – 4.4 lbs)
Height 1 m (3.3 ft)
Wingspan 1.6 – 2 m (5.2 – 6.5 ft)
Clutch size 3 – 4 eggs
The grey heron is a wading bird found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. The grey heron can be identified by its greyish-blue plumage, long neck, and yellow bill. They hunt by standing motionless at the edge of the water, on rocks or in the shallows, waiting for prey to come within range before striking with precision with their big beak.
They feed on fish, amphibians, insects, small mammals, and even birds. They have been recorded snatching up little ducklings. They are found in wetlands, marshes, lakes, rivers, and coasts, constructing extensive stick nests in trees or man-made structures. While many grey heron populations are resident, herons from northern regions migrate southwards in the autumn.
Weight 30 – 37 kg (66 – 82 lbs)
Height 1.5 – 1.9 m (5 – 6.2 ft)
Clutch size 5 – 15 eggs
Emus are the second tallest bird in the world after the ostrich and are the largest bird in their native country Australia. The male incubates the eggs for eight weeks. At that time, he does not feed or drink.
Once the chicks hatch, he nurtures them until they are fully grown. The emu is an icon of Australia that appears on coins and the Australian coat of arms along with the kangaroo. They also feature in Australian Indigenous mythology.
Weight 1.3 – 8.9 kg (2.9 – 19.6 lbs)
Height 70 cm (27.5 in)
Wingspan 1.4 m (4.6 ft)
Clutch size 4 eggs
The Asian openbill is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They can be easily identified by their unique bill. When their beak is closed, there is a hole in the middle hence the name openbill. They mainly feed on snails, for which their unusual beak is designed for.
They wade slowly through the water jabbing their bill underneath the water. The end of the bill is inserted into the opening of the snail’s shell, and the body is extracted with the bird’s head still underwater. The plumage is mainly grey and white, with a black neck and head and a black and yellow bill.
Weight 180 g (0.4 lbs)
Wingspan 75 cm (29.5 in)
Clutch size 4 eggs
The black-winged stilt is a black-and-white bird with a long, pointed beak. Its wings are black and show a distinctive white stripe on the lower wing. They have long, thin, delicate legs. They are widely distributed from Australia, Central and South America, Eurasia, Africa, southern and south-eastern Asia and parts of North America.
It lives in shallow, freshwater wetlands and can be found searching for food in sandy or muddy areas. Its diet consists of insects, worms, crustaceans, and small fish. Check out this excellent Youtube video of a pair displaying and dancing during the breeding season.
Great white egret
Weight 0.7 – 1.5 kg (1.5 – 3.3 lbs)
Height 1 m (3.3 ft)
Wingspan 1.3 – 1.7 m (4.3 – 5.6 ft)
Clutch size 1 – 5 eggs
The great white egret is a member of the heron family, Ardeidae. Four subspecies are spread across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and southern Europe. It has predominantly white plumage, a long yellow bill and black legs and feet. They wade through marshes, rivers, and shorelines in search of prey-eating amphibians, crustaceans, insects and small fish.