A Canada goose balances on one leg on the Webster Pond ice near Syracuse, New York.

A Canada goose balances on one leg on the Webster Pond ice near Syracuse, New York.

It’s been a year and a half since I published Why do Birds stand on one leg? and it continues to garner about two views a day.  Any time I see birds standing on one leg, I tend to pay more attention since it is a topic searched and read daily on this blog.

Another question which came to my mind is: “How do birds stand on one leg?” The Canada goose pictured here is resting.  He might even be sleeping in the warmth of the sunshine after days of cold January weather.  Why doesn’t he fall over? It didn’t take me long to find the answer.

Professor Reinhold Necker has published some interesting articles on bird behavior.  One of them goes specifically into how birds stand on one leg.  Long legged birds like flamingos and herons have a locking mechanism in their knee joints to securely keep their legs straight when standing on one leg.  Shorter birds like ducks and geese, rely on several systems: the inner ear, muscles and joints and an additional sense organ found in a bird’s vertebrae.  This sensory organ works directly with the bird’s legs to help it balance when performing tasks like preening while standing on one leg.

Our feathered friends continue to amaze me on how they have adapted to do things I could not do for longer than a half a minute (maybe!).  Yet, they do it effortlessly for long periods.

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12 Responses to Balance

  1. imac says:

    I think its a wonderful shot, and thanks for the info, I’ve often wondered how they do it.


  2. Gerry says:

    Now that is what I call a pattable bird. The goose probably wouldn’t agree, but there you go.

    I do that when it’s cold out–pull one mittened paw right up into my sleeve and hunker down under my hood. The other mitten is out there holding onto the leashes for dear life. I don’t look the least pattable. Clearly the goose has a better photographer taking its publicity stills.


  3. yesbuts says:

    Great shot. Puzzling question. I know lizards, while standing, lift their feet off the ground to control body temperature, could be the same reason for birds. Or, perhaps they are fans of Treasure Island and they want to be Long John Silver.


  4. Mitch says:

    Great shot! How far away were you when you got it?


  5. montucky says:

    That’s a fantastic shot! I’ve alway found their willingness and ability to do that amazing. We have a group of wild turkeys that seems to have adopted our yard and I’ve seen several of them do it too.


  6. flandrumhill says:

    The Snowy Egret in your other post on the subject looks elegant in its one-legged pose. This goose, on the other hand (or should that be… on the other foot?), looks like a target ripe for the tipping.

    Both posts are very insightful and the photos are beautiful.


  7. Anna Surface says:

    LOL I’ve seen it, birds standing on one leg and head tucked in backwards into its feathers; however, I haven’t captured any photos of this. Birds are intriguing to watch and photograph. I love this photo, such a great capture!


  8. Nye says:

    I’ve never noticed this before, I need to pay more attention the next time I’m at the pond.


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