If you were a beautiful Mallard you’d probably be happy to stand on a pair of coral-orange webbed feet …
and perhaps you’d take care to keep them clean.
A mallard’s webbed feet are great for swimming along the surface of a pond. But if you eat by beating fish at their own game – diving down and out-swimming your catch – you’d like the even bigger flippers at the end of a Double-crested Cormorant’s legs. Never mind that they only come in basic black.
For walking in the muck of a marsh, though, you need something altogether different – footwear that spreads out effectively, but that you can just as easily lift out of the sticky goo if you need to move in a hurry.
And so it is that many birds in Bowmanville Marsh have long slender toes, like those of the Virginia Rail and the Least Sandpiper.
Whether you are the smallest of the sandpipers or the largest of the herons, it’s great to be able to walk through deep mud – but lift into flight in an instant.
Each of our local heron species have similar feet. The short and stocky Night Heron, below, has long, strong toes that propel it from its perch fast – whether that’s to strike at a fish or frog in the water or burst into flight.
The Green Heron is even more versatile, with long toes that allow it to patrol the shoreline one minute, and make like a squirrel the next, grabbing slender twigs and swaying in the breeze at the top of trees.
Composite at top of page, clockwise from left: Green Heron, Mallard, and Virginia Rail. All photos taken in Bowmanville Marsh during the last six weeks.