Let’s Talk About Wading Feet

4-16-2019 bSome of the coolest birds I see when I am near the banks of the Potomac River are Great Blue Herons. Why do I find these birds so fabulous? I don’t know that I have an exact reason, but perhaps it’s because they have super-long necks, just like me. I hear long necks are considered très élégant and I find I quite agree.

Do you know what else is very long on a great blue heron?

Its toes.

Great blue herons are wading birds, which means they walk in shallow water to hunt for fish. Wading birds have long toes to help them walk on squishy, wet ground. Their special toes cover a lot more terrain than short toes would cover and distribute their bodyweights across wide areas. The birds are therefore able to walk over mud without getting stuck in it.

Have you ever worn snow shoes? The same principle is at work: the wide surface area of snow shoes distributes your weight across a lot of ground, allowing you to walk across snow, not sink into it.

Finally, for this week: I am thrilled to tell you about a great blue heron you can watch live right now.  It is incubating two eggs in its nest as I type this.  The awesome people at the Chesapeake Conservancy and Explore.org have set up a great blue heron nest cam on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is simply fabulous.  Be sure to check it out!4-16-2019 a

3 Comments »

  1. Hi, Bernice. Great piece on the Great Blue Heron and wading birds more generally. Not only do waders, like the Blue Heron have long necks (like us giraffes), but also have long thin legs. I’ve always thought we giraffes have long thin legs (though of course we are large animals and our legs are not stick like). In looking up wading birds, I found the following partial list — cranes, egrets, flamingos, herons, ibises, rails, spoonbills and storks. Maybe you can put links up for each of these interesting birds for those of us following your blog to see. I saw a picture of an egret the other day, and that is one spectacular bird. Would love to see one out and about some day!

    Of course, giraffes have hooves versus long toed feet, so we wouldn’t do too well in soft ground like wading birds and we are pretty heavy (even just eating leaves). We giraffes are apparently even-toed ungulates — a pretty strange sounding word. Thus, we have two weight-bearing hooves on each foot. Other animals with feet like ours are antelope, caribou, moose, and hippos, as well as more common animals in North America like cattle, goats, sheep and pigs.
    Enjoyed looking at the great blue heron nest cam. When I was on, the mother heron was sitting peacefully on her eggs enjoying the breeze and sun.

    Can’t wait to see what mom thinks about wading birds and whether she has seen any of the other types! Mom is supposed to have some green tea and a special snack for this afternoon. Stop by if you can and join Louisa and us. Best to Hector.

    Love,
    Dad

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  2. Great blog post, as always, Bernice! It’s a beautiful day. Shall we meet by the river for a walk? Call me ASAP 🙂
    And thanks to your Dad for leaving another substantive comment – very cool.

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  3. Hello, Bernice!
    First, to your Daddy: I love flamingoes, too! My sister was one for Halloween last year; I am thinking about dressing up as one for Halloween this year… but that’s a long while from now.
    We watched the Blue Heron for a little while – she got up, adjusted some twigs on her nest, and then settled back down on the eggs. And that made me wonder: how do birds avoid crushing or cracking their eggs when they sit down on them? How can this be? I know eggs are very fragile…
    I can’t wait to read your next blog post – this is so exciting! Maybe one of your posts in the future will be about flamingoes… hmm.. a girl can hope!
    Love,
    E

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