Birds on One Leg

Why do certain types of birds stand on one leg? I’ve given it much thought but I cannot think of any real benefit from standing around like that.

It allows them to rest the leg that is not touching the ground. That way they can stand longer without getting tired.

I remember seeing an article in National Geographic about an African tribe that has adapted this stance. They’re herders and have to stand for long periods of time. They use sticks to balance themselves on one leg, while keeping the other in a sort of lotus postion. By doing this, they can stand all day long without getting fatigued.

So why doesn’t the leg that they’re standing on get tired?

Well, this is just a guess, but probably because once and a while they switch legs?

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

I’ll add my own personal experience to this thread. I am a flamingo. No, actually I’m a human being who sings in the ASU Choral Union, a local community chorus. During our performances, there are long periods of time where we just stand there in one position (singing or waiting to sing). I frequently shift my weight to, say, my right foot, just barely keeping my left foot on the floor. After a while, I alternate. I find this to be much more endurable than standing with my weight distributed evenly to both feet for the whole duration. I need to buy some inserts for my patent leathers.

“I wept because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. So I took his shoes” - Dave Barry

When I worked at K-Mart, they had a small nook in the wall under the converyor belt to rest one foot in. Nicest thing they ever did for their employees, and I mean that literally.

      • Weirder yet, me thinks: A science magazine just ran a story about how ducks sleep with one eye open, to watch for predators. Half their brain goes to sleep, and the other half stays up. (My beer cannot do this) - MC

A possibility: because it adds a split second to the action of fleeing/chasing process, sorta like a [human] runner in the starting blocks. Adds a slight edge when having to turn around to snatch up that crab popping out of the sand behind you, or when trying to run up to flight speed to flee from the cat.

Seems to be prevalent in shorebirds for example, standing around sand flats, but not with forest birds. (The resting idea might work for a related reason, I.E. a stronger quick push off a rested leg.)

I think Cecil answered this one. The answer he gave, if I recall correctly, was exposure. A bird’s legs are not covered by feathers, so they lose a high proportion of body heat through their legs. By only standing on one and keeping the other pressed to their body, they reduce heat loss. This is especially important for wading bords like flamingos, because the water they stand in will carry heat away much faster than air.