Birds with long legs: Types and Habits

Birds with long legs are a diverse group of creatures that can be found all around the world. Divided into two categories, these birds either wade through water to catch their prey or run after it in grassy areas. With a wide range of species including the Wood Stork, Southern Cassowary, Jabiru, and Secretary Bird, these birds vary in size, habitat, and feeding habits. Their long legs come in handy for various purposes such as walking on soft mud, running at high speeds, hunting, and defense. While some birds like the Wood Stork and Jabiru use their long legs to search for food in shallow water, others like the Ostrich and Emu rely on their long, powerful legs for running and defense. As fascinating creatures with unique characteristics, birds with long legs have captivated bird watchers and researchers alike.

Types of Birds with Long Legs

Birds with long legs are an interesting group that can be divided into two main categories: wading birds and grassland birds. These birds have adapted to their environments and developed long legs, which serve various purposes. In this article, we will explore some of the different types of birds with long legs and learn more about their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors.

Wading Birds

Wading birds are a fascinating group of birds that are commonly found near bodies of water. They use their long legs to wade through water, searching for aquatic prey such as fish, frogs, and small invertebrates. Let’s take a closer look at some of the wading birds known for their long legs.

Wood Stork

One of the most iconic wading birds with long legs is the Wood Stork. These birds are native to the wetlands of the southeastern United States and South America. With their long, slender legs, they are able to walk on soft mud and water with ease, searching for fish and other small prey.

Southern Cassowary

The Southern Cassowary is a unique and fascinating bird found in the rainforests of New Guinea and northeastern Australia. They have long legs that allow them to navigate the dense vegetation of their habitat. Despite their large size, they are agile runners and can reach impressive speeds when needed.


The Jabiru is a large stork species known for its distinct appearance and long legs. Found in the wetlands of Central and South America, these birds use their long legs to wade through shallow water, searching for prey. Their strong bills are used to catch fish, small reptiles, and amphibians.

Gray Heron

The Gray Heron is a common wading bird found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. With their long legs, they gracefully stalk their prey in shallow waters, waiting patiently before striking with their sharp beaks. These elegant birds have adapted to a variety of habitats, including marshes, lakes, and rivers.

Great Egret

The Great Egret is a majestic wading bird known for its impressive size and beautiful white plumage. They can be found in various wetland habitats around the world, including North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Their long legs and necks allow them to walk through water with grace and precision, while their sharp eyesight helps them spot fish and other small prey.

Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret is another stunning wading bird that stands out with its snowy white feathers and bright yellow feet. They are found in the Americas, from the United States down to South America. These birds have long, slender legs that enable them to walk on soft mud and wade through shallow water in search of small fish, crustaceans, and insects.

American Flamingo

When you think of long-legged birds, flamingos often come to mind. The American Flamingo is a striking bird with its pink feathers and long, graceful legs. They are found in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands. These birds use their long legs to wade through shallow water, filtering the water for algae, crustaceans, and small fish with their uniquely shaped bills.

Cattle Egret

The Cattle Egret is a small wading bird that has adapted well to both grassland and wetland habitats. They are found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. These birds often accompany livestock, where they feed on insects disturbed by the animals. Their long legs allow them to move easily through tall grass and shallow water.

Grassland Birds

In addition to wading birds, there are also grassland birds that have long legs, enabling them to run after prey on land. These birds can be found in open grasslands and have developed unique adaptations to thrive in their environments. Let’s explore some of these fascinating grassland birds.

Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane is a critically endangered bird found in North America. They have long legs that enable them to forage and catch prey in wetland and grassland habitats. These birds are known for their distinctive trumpeting call, which can be heard from a distance. Efforts have been made to conserve and protect this species due to its low population numbers.


The Emu is a large flightless bird native to Australia. With its long legs, it is exceptionally adapted for life in the open grasslands and scrublands of the continent. Emus have powerful legs that allow them to run at high speeds, reaching up to 30 miles per hour. In addition to their impressive running abilities, their legs are also equipped with sharp claws for defense.

Black-Necked Stilt

The Black-Necked Stilt is a bird that can be found in wetland and grassland habitats across the Americas. It has long, thin legs that allow it to walk on marshy terrain and wade through shallow water in search of insects, small fish, and crustaceans. Their striking black and white plumage is highly distinctive, making them easily recognizable.

Secretary Bird

The Secretary Bird is a large bird of prey that inhabits the grasslands of Africa. It has long legs and a distinct, crested head. These birds primarily feed on small mammals, snakes, and insects, which they catch by stomping on them with their powerful legs. Secretary Birds are capable runners and can cover long distances in search of prey.

Variations in Sizes and Habitats

Birds with long legs come in a variety of sizes and have adapted to different habitats around the world. From large storks to small egrets, these birds have developed unique characteristics to thrive in their respective environments.

The Wood Stork, Southern Cassowary, and Jabiru are examples of larger birds with long legs that inhabit wetland areas. These birds have adapted to wading through shallow water and use their long legs to search for food. They have specialized bills and sharp eyesight that allow them to locate and capture prey effectively.

On the other hand, birds like the Ostrich, Emu, and Secretary Bird have long legs that are perfect for life in the grasslands. These birds have evolved to be powerful runners, using their legs to chase down prey and defend themselves from predators. Their speed and agility are critical for survival in open environments.

Birds from Different Parts of the World

Birds with long legs can be found all around the globe, each with its own unique characteristics and adaptations. From the Wood Stork in North and South America to the Southern Cassowary in Australia, these birds have spread across various continents and have become integral parts of their respective ecosystems.

Whether it’s the American Flamingo in the Americas, the Gray Heron in Europe, or the Secretary Bird in Africa, each bird has found a niche in its habitat and plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. The distribution of these birds showcases the diversity of species and ecosystems found around the world.

In conclusion, birds with long legs are a fascinating group that can be divided into wading birds and grassland birds. They have developed unique adaptations to thrive in their environments, whether it’s wading through water or running across open grasslands. From the Wood Stork to the Secretary Bird, each bird has its own set of characteristics and behaviors that make it truly remarkable. So, next time you spot a bird with long legs, take a moment to appreciate the incredible diversity and adaptations that exist in the avian world.

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