The structure and color of birds’ legs is extremely variable. Everyone knows the difference between the webbed foot of a duck and the unwebbed toes of a chicken, and we can tell the thick, yellow toes of a chicken from the delicate black toes of a flycatcher. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that we can tell most small songbirds apart by their legs and feet – vireos from warblers from flycatchers from sparrows.
The quiz here introduces this idea with legs and feet of three different species of birds. In the answers you only have to identify the bird to family. The legs and feet of other species in each family are generally similar.
With thanks, again, to Brian E. Small for providing the beautiful photos. You can see lots more at his website.
Legs and feet of songbirds 1
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Question 1 Explanation:
Red-eyed Vireo - thick legs and toes, bluish gray, are typical of vireos. The way the toes are all pressed tightly together, not spread out, is reminiscent of jays and crows, which are related.
Question 2 Explanation:
Golden-crowned Kinglet - very slender legs and delicate toes; black legs with yellow toes are typical of kinglets and shared by only a few other songbirds (wood-warblers).
Question 3 Explanation:
Ovenbird - typical of warblers, with slender legs, weak claws, and delicate toes spreading wide. Pale flesh color shared by only a few other warblers. Thrushes have very similar leg color and structure. Some sparrows have similar color but more robust legs and feet with more obvious claws.
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