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Birds fun facts. Walking on water
Purple Swamphen

Birds fun facts. Walking on water

Birds living in aquatic areas have developed special feeding and walking adaptations to these environments. Anatids are great swimmers, thanks to their webbed feet (toes joined by a membrane). White-throated dippers dive to feed on invertebrates from the river bed rocks and pebbles. When they come out of the water, they are completely dry, as if they wear a suit just picked up from the laundry.

Purple swamphens live among waterland vegetation, where they feed on rushes and reeds and some invertebrates.

It’s hard to walk around this environment without sinking, it seems to be easier to float and swim. But, sometimes, vegetation is so thick that they can’t move forward by swimming.

Detail of the swamphen's fingers
Detail of the swamphen’s fingers

So, stay afloat…

There is a way to keep the feathers dry: walk on the aquatic vegetation, like floating. Since they have extremely big toes, very large compared to their body size, the weight of the body remains evenly distributed in a larger surface and they don’t submerge. In other words, they walk on the water!

This video shows this species skill and sensitivity when it comes to use their big toes. Even when they feed their offspring, they are surprisingly tender and careful, given the size of their toes.

Swanphen family

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