7 Types of Bird Feet by Toes with Functions and Images

Birds are distributed in all environments of the world.

They have modified feet to survive in those natural habitats. 

The birds’ feet are, in general, meant for clasping the branches, walking, running, and even swimming.

Some of the birds need their feet to hunt their prey.

Based on these requirements, the bird’s feet are modified according to their environment. 

Major Types of Bird Feet

  1. Anisodactyly
  2. Zygodactyly
  3. Heterodactyly
  4. Syndactyly
  5. Pamprodactyly
  6. Idactyly
  7. Palmate


Types of Bird Feet
Pigeon legs with the first toe pointed backward.
  • This is the most common pattern of the legs of most birds. 
  • According to this arrangement, the bird’s feet have four toes, and the first finger is fixed towards the backside of the foot. 
  • The other three toes are pointed in the front direction.
  • Examples of the birds having Anisodactyly configuration are like
  1. Passerines – Blue Tilt, Sparrows, Blackbirds, etc.
  2. In Pigeons – Columbiformes
  3. Hawks- Falconiformes
  • These birds’ feet have a strong front toe which helps them to perch firmly on the branches of the tree with ease. 
  • This configuration helps in the perching of the birds.


Parrot legs with a zygodactyl arrangement
  • In this type of configuration, the birds have two toes in the forward direction and the other two in the backward direction. 
  • Further, the fourth finger of the feet points backward with a front finger. 
  • Zygodactyly configuration is found mainly in cuckoos (Cuculiformes), parrots, and woodpeckers (Piciformes). 
  • Owls also have the same configuration in their feet region.
  • However, the climbing species, like woodpeckers have curbed nails in their feet to climb with ease. 
  • The curved nails help in holding all irregularities of the tree bark without any problems for the bird.


  • Bird with this type of heterodactyly feet configuration are very rare. 
  • In this arrangement, there are four toes on the feet.
  • Of them, two toes point backward, while the other two fingers point forward.  
  • The only difference is that the back fingers are second and the first. 
  • This heterodactyly arrangement is found in trogons, which allows these birds to perch on tree branches, where they can spend a lot of time perching and climbing.


Kingfisher legs with 3rd and 4th toe connected
  • Syndactyly arrangement is the type of feet that have connected middle fingers.
  • The third and fourth finger is connected in the feet region.
  • This type of arrangement is similar to the anisodactyly, except for the fusion of fingers.
  • This type of arrangement is mainly found in kingfishers, northern caracara, and bee-eaters.
  • In this configuration, the three fingers are fused in which the fingers are in front and second to fourth in the giant kingfisher.
  • This type of legs allows them to perch on flat and cylindrical surfaces.


Swift bird feet [adobe]
  • In this type of configuration, all four fingers of the feet face forward.
  • This type of configuration is generally found in swifts (Apodiformes) in which the first finger – hallux is also pointed forward.
  • This type of feet helps serve to hang them from branches and other structures, as they have short legs that cannot be passed.
  • Since these birds cannot perch or walk on their own. So, this type of configuration of feet is used.


Ostrich feet with two toes
  • The Idactyly configuration is only found in the ostriches only.
  • In this arrangement, they have only two toes on each foot, with a larger toe and a smaller toe.
  • The larger toe has a nail on it, and the toe resembles a hoof. It is essential for the running of the bird.
  • The smaller toe has no nails on it. But it only helps to balance the bird while walking slowly. It does not contribute to running.
  • In this configuration, the feet of the bird are adapted to its life on open land and desert areas.
  • Ostriches can run at a speed of 43mph and can cover almost 9.8 to 16.4 feet in a single stride.


Ducks feet with 2 to 4th toe webbed.
  • Palmate is the most common webbing in a bird’s feet.
  • Here, the anterior digits (2-4) are joined mostly by webbing.
  • This type of webbing is found in ducks, gulls, terns, and ducks.
  • Other aquatic birds such as flamingos, fulmars, jaegers, loons, petrels, and skimmers.
  • The diving ducks also have a lobed hind toe, and gulls terns and allies have a reduced hind toe in this configuration.

Frequently asked questions and answers.

  1. What type of birds swim but don’t have webbed feet

    Coots and phalaropes are birds that have lobes instead of webbed feet. But they can swim in the water.

  2. What bird has two toes

    An ostrich is a bird that has two toes.

  3. How do feet help birds move in the water?

    Birds with paddle feet can swim in water, while those without paddles can only walk in shallow waters.
    The paddle helps to stroke the water backward to enable the movement of the bird forward.


  1. The complete birds of the world. Princeton University Press.
  2. What are bird feet?
  3. Observations on polydactyly and heterodactyly in fowls.
  4. Bird Feet: Particular Adaptations with Prehistoric Roots
  5. Galliformes and Columbiformes
  6. Apodiformes and Coliiformes

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