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26 Birds with Long Legs: Pics & Facts

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Jan 25th, 2024
flamingoes - featured image

Birds with long legs have adapted to various habitats around the world. These birds possess a distinct advantage with their long legs, allowing them to navigate through shallow waters, marshes, and dense vegetation.

Long legs play a crucial role in the survival and hunting strategies of these birds. These birds forage for a diverse range of prey, including fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and even small mammals, while also providing stability and balance in their wetland environments.

26 Species of Birds That Have Long Legs

We have shared a comprehensive list of birds with long legs and details on how these birds use their long legs:

1. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron with mottled brown plumage and long, slender legs. They can be found in marshes and wetlands throughout North America. The American Bittern wade through shallow waters and navigate dense vegetation in search of fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.

The American Bittern uses its legs to navigate through shallow waters.

During the breeding season, the American Bittern engages in courtship to attract a mate and establish their nesting territory.

2. Great Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great Egret is a large heron with white plumage, long legs, and a long, S-shaped neck. They inhabit various wetland habitats across the world.

The Great Egret uses its long legs to walk through shallow waters and tall grasses.

This gives it an advantage in catching fish, frogs, and small mammals. During the breeding season, the Great Egret constructs nests high in trees and engages in elaborate courtship displays to attract a mate.

3. Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Flamingos are large wading birds with long legs, a unique curved beak, and pink plumage. They are found in tropical and subtropical wetlands in different parts of the world.

Flamingos wade through deep waters.

They use their legs to reach aquatic plants and then filter feed on small organisms like algae, plankton, and crustaceans. Flamingos gather in large groups during the breeding season and build mud mounds for nesting.

4. Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

The Green Heron is a small heron species with a dark greenish-brown plumage, short neck, and long legs. They can be found in wetlands, marshes, and wooded areas of North and Central America.

The long legs of the Green Heron enable it to stand motionless near water.

While standing dead-still, they wait and then swiftly strike at fish, amphibians, and insects as they pass by.

5. Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)

The Great Blue Heron is a large heron with bluish-gray plumage, a long neck, and long legs. Widespread across North America, the blue heron can be found in various aquatic habitats. The long legs of the Great Blue Heron allow it to walk in shallow water or stand still for extended periods.

This helps them hunt for fish, frogs, and other small aquatic creatures.

During the breeding season, Great Blue Herons engage in elaborate courtship displays to establish pair bonds and select nesting sites in trees or colonies.

6. Wood Storks (Mycteria americana)

The Wood Stork is a large wading bird with a bald head, dark plumage, and long legs. They are native to wetlands and marshes in the southeastern United States, Central America, and South America.

The long legs of the Wood Stork enable it to forage in shallow waters.

It feeds on fish, frogs, and invertebrates by sweeping its bill from side to side.

7. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized heron with white plumage, a slender build, and long black legs. Snowy egrets can be found in coastal areas, marshes, and wetlands across the Americas.

Snowy egrets are predatory birds.

The long legs of the Snowy Egret help it wade through shallow waters, where it hunts for fish, crustaceans, and small invertebrates using its sharp bill.

8. Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

The Tricolored Heron is a small heron with blue-gray plumage, a white belly, and long legs. They are commonly found in coastal areas, salt marshes, and mangroves in the Americas.

The Tricolored Heron moves gracefully through shallow waters and marshes.

They hunt for small fish, crabs, and insects with their agile foraging technique.

9. White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

The White-faced Ibis is a medium-sized bird with dark plumage, a long curved bill, and long legs.

They inhabit wetlands, marshes, and flooded fields in parts of North and South America.

The White-faced Ibis uses its long legs to wade in shallow water and mud to probe for insects, crustaceans, and other small aquatic prey.

10. Australian Crane (Grus rubicunda)

The Australian Crane is a large bird with a gray body, long legs, and a distinctive red head and neck. They are found in wetlands, grasslands, and open habitats in Australia and New Guinea.

It is also known as the Brolga.

The long legs of the Australian Crane assist it in foraging for grasses, tubers, and invertebrates in wetland areas, as well as performing intricate mating dances.

11. Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)

The Southern Cassowary is a large flightless bird with a tall body, black plumage, and long, powerful legs.

They inhabit the rainforests of Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands.

The long legs of the Southern Cassowary enable it to navigate through dense vegetation. They can cover long distances while foraging for fruits, seeds, and small animals on the forest floor.

12. Black-Necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

The Black-Necked Stilt is a slender shorebird with distinctive black and white plumage, long red legs, and a long, thin bill.

They can be found in wetlands, salt pans, and mudflats. 

Widespread across North and South America, the Black-Necked Stilt wades in shallow waters and probes the mud for insects, crustaceans, and other aquatic prey.

13. Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

The Cattle Egret is a small heron with white plumage, a short neck, and long legs. They are found in various open habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, and wetlands, worldwide.

Cattle egrets are terrestrial birds.

The long legs of the Cattle Egret enable it to walk among grazing livestock and forage for insects flushed out by its movements.

14. Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

The Whooping Crane is a large, endangered bird with white plumage, long legs, and a long, pointed bill.

They breed in wetlands and winter in coastal areas of North America.

The long legs of the Whooping Crane aid it in foraging for small aquatic prey, such as fish, frogs, and insects, in shallow wetland habitats.

15. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

The Roseate Spoonbill is a medium-sized wading bird with pink plumage, a unique spoon-shaped bill, and long legs.

They can be found in wetlands and coastal regions of the Americas.

Roseate Spoonbill uses its long legs to navigate through shallow water and marshes, where it sweeps its specialized bill from side to side to catch small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates.

16. American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

The American Flamingo is a large wading bird with pink plumage, long legs, and a distinctive curved bill. They are native to the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and coastal areas of South America.

The long legs of the American Flamingo allow it to move through shallow water.

Using its uniquely shaped bill, it filter feeds on tiny aquatic organisms like algae, shrimp, and small fish.

17. Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea)

The Gray Heron is a large heron with gray plumage, a long neck, and long legs. They can be found in wetlands and coastal areas across Europe, Asia, and Africa.

It stalks its prey and strikes with precision when hunting.

This long-legged bird feeds on fish, amphibians, small mammals, and invertebrates.

18. Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)

The Black Stork is a large wading bird with black plumage, long legs, and a red bill.

They can be found in various wetland habitats across Europe and Asia.

The Black Stork inhabits shallow water where it searches for fish, frogs, insects, and small reptiles.

19. Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

The Least Bittern is a small heron with brownish plumage, a long neck, and long legs. They are commonly found in marshes, wetlands, and dense vegetation across North and Central America.

It feeds on small fish, insects, and amphibians.

The Least Bittern, aided by its long and strong legs, navigates through dense vegetation and shallow waters where it hunts for its prey.

20. Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica)

The Purple Gallinule is a medium-sized bird with vibrant purple and blue plumage, long legs, and a red bill. They inhabit marshes, swamps, and wetlands in the southeastern United States, Central America, and South America.

The purple gallinule, using its long legs, walks on floating vegetation.

It can easily navigate through marshy areas, where it forages for plant matter, insects, and small aquatic animals.

21. Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

The sandhill crane is a tall bird with gray plumage, long legs, and a distinctive red crown on its head. They can be found in wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural areas across North America and parts of Siberia.

Sandhill cranes perform elaborate courtship dances.

The sandhill crane forages for roots, tubers, insects, small mammals, and reptiles in wetland habitats.

22. Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)

The scarlet ibis is a medium-sized wading bird with bright red plumage, long legs, and a long, curved bill. They are native to tropical wetlands and coastal regions of South America, including the Caribbean.

Using its long legs, the Scarlet Ibis wades through shallow water.

It probes the mud for crustaceans, small fish, and insects; this diet contributes to its vibrant red coloration.

23. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

The Purple Heron is a large heron with grayish-purple plumage, a long neck, and long legs. They can be found in wetlands, marshes, and lagoons across Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa (so yes, you'll have to go overseas to spot this one live).

It uses its long legs to navigate through shallow water and tall vegetation.

Purple herons prey on fish, amphibians, small mammals, and insects. The long legs also provide stability and balance while standing or moving in wetland habitats.

24. American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

The American Avocet is a medium-sized shorebird with a slender body, long legs, and a long, upward-curving bill. They can be found in shallow saltwater and freshwater habitats, including mudflats, marshes, and saline lakes across North America.

The American Avocet navigates through shallow water and mud.

It sweeps its bill from side to side to catch small invertebrates, insects, and crustaceans.

25. Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)

The Reddish Egret is a medium-sized heron with a shaggy appearance, reddish-brown plumage, long legs, and a slender, dagger-like bill. They can be found in coastal areas, estuaries, and lagoons of the Gulf Coast and southern United States.

The long legs of the Reddish Egret aid it in navigating marshy habitats.

This egret has a unique hunting technique that involves dancing, running, and lunging to catch fish and small crustaceans.

26. Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

The Black-Crowned Night Heron is a medium-sized heron with a black crown, grayish plumage, red eyes, and long legs. They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, and wooded areas, across the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

The Black-Crowned Night Heron mostly inhabits shallow waters.

They forage for a diverse diet of fish, frogs, small mammals, crustaceans, and insects during nighttime and twilight hours.

Bottom Line

Birds with long legs come in all shapes and sizes, each with their unique characteristics and habitats. From the elegant herons and egrets to the flamboyant flamingos and other birds, these birds have adapted their long legs to thrive in wetlands, marshes, and coastal regions.

By cherishing and preserving these remarkable long-legged birds and their wetland homes, we can secure a future where they continue to inspire and enchant us. To witness these long-legged bird species, be sure to go in equipped when visiting wetlands and marshes.

FAQs

What are some examples of birds with long and thin legs?

Examples include the American avocet, green herons, black-necked stilt, great blue heron, reddish egret, secretary bird, and other birds.

Do some shorebirds have long legs?

Yes, many shorebirds (in addition to large birds on land and migratory bird species) have long legs to help them navigate coastal environments.

How do long and thin legs benefit birds?

Long and thin legs allow birds to wade through water, navigate diverse habitats, and forage for food efficiently. They provide stability, balance, and access to specific food sources in wetland environments.

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