Long-Legged Birds

Most long-legged birds are of the wading bird variety, which use their long limbs to navigate shallow bodies of water for food. However, these aren’t the only birds with long legs, as ratites, like cassowaries and ostriches, are flightless birds that use their legs to run at high speeds.

Long Legged Birds

Different Birds with Long Legs

Here is a list of birds with long legs arranged by height.

Species of BirdHow Tall is It? (in inches)What Habitat Do They Live In?
Ostrich 83-110Arid regions like grasslands and savannahs
Southern Cassowary 59-79Rainforests and similar habitats
Marabou Stork59-62Near grasslands, savannahs, and wetlands
Whooping Crane49-63Marshes, both freshwater and saltwater
American Flamingo47-57Mudflats, saline water bodies like lagoons and inland lakes
Jabiru47-55Near aquatic habitats like rivers and ponds
Common Crane43-47Near aquatic habitats like wetlands and marshes
Secretary Bird39-51Savannahs and open grasslands
White Stork39-45Grasslands, as well as wetlands
Great Blue Heron36-54Wetlands like flooded meadows, fresh and saltwater marshes, lakes, shorelines, and the swamps of mangrove forests 
Gray Heron35-40Most shallow aquatic environments like coastal lagoons, ditches, estuaries, flooded areas, lakes, marshes, mountain tarns, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, and seashores
Wood Stork33-45Wetlands in tropical and subtropical habitats 
Great Egret31-41Near aquatic habitats like lakes, rivers, ponds, and swamps
Purple Heron31-38Near aquatic habitats with vegetation to perch on, like lagoons, marshes, and some lakes.
Roseate Spoonbill28-34Both freshwater and saltwater habitats
Reddish Egret27-32Mudflats
Limpkin25-29Freshwater marshes, mangroves, and swamps, but also near dry bushlands 
American Bittern23–33Bogs, marshes, shallow open pools, and wet meadows
Snowy Egret22-26Near aquatic habitats like estuaries, lakesides, marshes, pools, riverbanks, and salt marshes
Tricolored Heron22-30Swamps and coastal habitats like shorelines and lagoons
Scarlet Ibis22-25Wetlands and marshes like mudflats and shorelines
Cattle Egret18-22Fields and other grassy habitats, but sometimes seen in shallow water
White-faced Ibis18-22Marshes, especially those with low-lying vegetation to perch on
Green Heron16-18Small, low-lying wetlands
American Purple Gallinule10-15Freshwater marshes with vegetation

How Do the Long Legs Help These Birds?

The long legs of these birds serve multiple functions, including:

  • Navigation in shallow areas – Wading birds like cranes, ibises, and storks thrive on a diet of aquatic animals like fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. Their long feet help them to hunt in water bodies effectively without submerging themselves, giving them an element of surprise. Their feet also prevent them from sinking or slipping in mud while they wade around.
  • Regulating Body Temperature – Some birds, like flamingoes, use their feet to lose excess heat. The blood vessels in their legs can adjust blood flow to dissipate or conserve body heat according to the situation.
  • For A Display of Dominance –  Some birds, like the Secretary bird, will kick and take long strides to show superiority over their competition during courtship periods. This also works as a scare tactic against predators.

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