Skip to content Skip to footer

13 Graceful Birds With Long Legs (With Pictures & Facts)

When we think of birds, often what springs to mind are their vibrant feathers, melodious songs, or unparalleled ability to soar. But among these avian wonders are a select group that captivates with their statuesque legs. Stretching tall like nature’s own stilts, these birds wade through wetlands, stride across savannahs, and even dash through dense forests.

Their long legs aren’t just about achieving height; they serve a functional purpose, aiding in hunting, foraging, and navigating diverse habitats. From the pastel-hued flamingo often seen balancing on one leg to the towering ostrich sprinting across African landscapes, these long-legged birds embody grace, elegance, and power.

Join us as we journey through the remarkable world of some of the tallest avians, each with its unique charm and story. 

13 Birds With Long Legs: Overview

Birds With Long Legs: Pictures and Facts


Birds with long legs - Flamingo
  • Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus spp.
  • Height: 1.1 to 1.5 m (3.6 to 4.9 ft)
  • Where Found: Regions of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe in salt lakes, lagoons, and muddy waters.

The flamingo, with its iconic pink hue and graceful posture, is perhaps one of the most recognizable birds in the world. These wading birds spend much of their time in shallow waters, sifting through the mud and water for their primary food, tiny organisms like algae and small crustaceans.

It’s the carotenoid pigments in their food that give them their vibrant color. A flamingo’s legs are not just long, but also incredibly strong, enabling them to stand on one leg for extended periods, which is believed to help them conserve body heat.

Flamingos are highly social birds, often seen in large colonies, sometimes numbering in the thousands. These colonies are not only a spectacular sight but also provide a safety net against predators. Their vocal communications, synchronized dances, and communal nesting add to the intrigue of their group dynamics.

Did you know? Flamingos produce a kind of milk! Both male and female flamingos have the ability to produce a nutrient-rich secretion in their digestive system known as “crop milk” to feed their chicks.

Great Blue Heron

Birds with long legs - Great Blue Heron
  • Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
  • Height: 0.9 to 1.2 m (3 to 4 ft)
  • Where Found: North and Central America, the Caribbean, and the Galápagos Islands, frequenting both freshwater and saltwater habitats.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America, characterized by its long neck, pointed bill, and distinct bluish-gray plumage.

When it’s not standing still and stately in shallow waters, it’s an expert fisher, stalking its aquatic prey with stealth and precision, striking with lightning speed. Their diet is diverse, including not just fish, but also small mammals, amphibians, and even other birds.

These majestic birds are primarily solitary, especially when feeding. They have special joints in their necks, allowing them to curl it into an “S” shape for a faster strike when hunting. Nesting, however, is a social affair; herons breed in colonies, with many nests constructed close together in trees or reeds.

Did you know? The Great Blue Heron can swallow a fish that is much larger than its narrow neck. Once swallowed, the prey gets broken down in the heron’s long digestive tract.


Birds with long legs - Ostrich
  • Scientific Name: Struthio camelus
  • Height: 2.1 to 2.8 m (6.9 to 9.2 ft)
  • Where Found: Native to Africa, particularly in its savannahs, shrublands, and desert regions.

The ostrich holds the title for being the world’s largest bird. Though flightless, it compensates with remarkable running abilities, reaching speeds up to 72 km/h (45 mph) thanks to its strong, muscular legs.

Each of its two-toed feet concludes in a large claw, serving as a potential weapon against threats. While they might not take to the skies, ostriches have powerful legs that not only aid in sprinting but also in delivering formidable kicks to deter predators.

Their unique physiology doesn’t end at their legs. Ostriches possess the largest eyes of any land animal, offering keen vision to spot potential danger from afar. Social creatures, they form groups that can vary from just a few to more than a hundred, often mingling with other grazing animals like zebras and antelopes.

Did you know? An ostrich’s brain is smaller than one of its eyeballs! However, their large eyes provide a wide field of vision, crucial for spotting predators from a distance.

Marabou Stork

Birds with long legs - Marabou Stork
  • Scientific Name: Leptoptilos crumenifer
  • Height: 1.5 to 1.6 m (4.9 to 5.2 ft)
  • Where Found: Sub-Saharan Africa, near wetlands, savannahs, and grasslands.

The Marabou Stork, often referred to as the “undertaker bird” due to its cloak-like wings and back, bald head, and white legs, is one of the largest flying birds in the world.

While its appearance may seem a bit peculiar, every aspect of it is perfectly adapted to its scavenging lifestyle. Its long legs are well-suited for wading in water to hunt for fish, frogs, and even crocodile eggs.

Marabou Storks often associate with vultures when scavenging, relying on their keen sight to locate carcasses. Their featherless heads are hygienic, preventing blood and flesh from sticking while feeding. These birds are silent for the most part, but they can communicate using a range of hisses and hollow sounds, especially during mating displays.

Did you know? A Marabou Stork’s bill can hold up to 1.3 liters (2.3 pints) of water! They often use this unique feature to store water, which they carry back to their chicks in their throats.

Secretary Bird

Birds with long legs - Secretary Bird
  • Scientific Name: Sagittarius serpentarius
  • Height: 1.0 to 1.3 m (3.3 to 4.3 ft)
  • Where Found: Open grasslands and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa.

The Secretary Bird is a striking raptor recognized by its eagle-like head, crane-like legs, and distinctive black feathers resembling quill pens behind its head – possibly leading to its unique name.

Unlike many raptors, it prefers to hunt on foot, walking through grasslands to flush out insects, mammals, and its favorite prey, snakes. Its long legs come in handy when delivering deadly stomps to subdue its quarry.

Despite their terrestrial hunting methods, Secretary Birds are adept flyers and will roost high up in acacia trees at night. Their courting ritual is a sight to behold, involving synchronized high-stepping and a display of their long, elegant tail feathers.

Did you know? The Secretary Bird has specialized scales on its legs, providing added protection when it’s kicking or stomping on venomous snakes.

Common Crane

Birds with long legs - Common Crane
  • Scientific Name: Grus grus
  • Height: 1.1 to 1.2 m (3.6 to 3.9 ft)
  • Where Found: Wetlands, marshes, and grasslands across northern parts of Europe and Asia.

The Common Crane is a majestic bird known for its long neck, elegant stature, and complex courtship dances. It sports a mix of grey and white feathers, with a noticeable streak of red on its head.

Renowned for their migratory behavior, Common Cranes undertake long-distance flights, making use of thermals to glide through the air with minimal effort.

Apart from their impressive flying skills, these cranes have intricate social behaviors, most notably their dancing displays – a combination of bows, leaps, and short runs, often accompanied by loud calls. This dance not only strengthens the bond between mates but also helps the birds stay nimble.

Did you know? The call of a Common Crane can be heard from up to several kilometers away, thanks to a specialized, elongated windpipe that coils into the bird’s sternum.

Snowy Egret

Birds with long legs - Snowy Egret
  • Scientific Name: Egretta thula
  • Height: 60 to 66 cm (24 to 26 in)
  • Where Found: Wetlands and coastal habitats from North America to South America.

Snowy Egrets are elegant wading birds characterized by their immaculate white plumage, slender black legs, and bright yellow feet. They have historically been sought after for their exquisite feathers, leading them near to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century.

Thankfully, protections have helped their populations recover. They can be seen gracefully darting around in shallow waters, capturing fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.

A peculiar hunting technique they employ involves shuffling one foot in the water to stir up aquatic creatures, making them easier prey. Their social birds and often nest in large colonies, alongside other wading bird species, high up in trees or on isolated islands to protect their offspring from predators.

Did you know? The vibrant yellow feet of the Snowy Egret act as a lure, attracting curious fish which are then swiftly caught.


Birds with long legs - Cassowary
  • Scientific Name: Casuarius spp.
  • Height: 1.5 to 2 m (4.9 to 6.6 ft)
  • Where Found: Rainforests of Northern Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands.

Regarded as one of the heaviest bird species, Cassowaries are truly a prehistoric sight with their striking blue and black coloration and helmet-like casques atop their heads.

While they might appear docile, Cassowaries are known to be very protective and can be aggressive if threatened, using their powerful legs and sharp claws to fend off potential dangers.

These solitary birds primarily feed on fruit, playing a critical role in rainforest seed dispersal. They swallow the fruit whole, with the seeds passing through their digestive system unharmed, aiding in the propagation of many rainforest species.

Did you know? The inner toe of the Cassowary has a dagger-like claw that can measure up to 12 cm (4.7 in) long, making it a formidable defense weapon.

White Stork

Birds with long legs - White Stork
  • Scientific Name: Ciconia ciconia
  • Height: 100 to 115 cm (39 to 45 in)
  • Where Found: Wetlands, grasslands, and farmlands across Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.

White Storks are large, long-legged birds recognized for their black wingtips and red bill and legs. They’re famous in European folklore for supposedly bringing babies, depicted carrying a bundle in its beak.

Migratory by nature, they embark on extensive journeys from Europe to Africa during winter, taking advantage of thermal updrafts to soar great distances.

These storks mostly feed on insects, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Their presence in a region is often considered a sign of ecological health, as they require unpolluted wetlands and ample food supply to thrive.

Did you know? White Storks clatter their beaks as a form of communication, especially during courtship. This unique behavior is called “bill-clattering.”


Birds with long legs - Ibis
  • Scientific Name: Threskiornis spp.
  • Height: Varies by species, generally between 50 to 76 cm (20 to 30 in)
  • Where Found: Wetlands, forests, and plains across the globe, specific range varies by species.

Ibises are wading birds that boast long, slender legs and a distinctive long, down-curved bill. This bill is supremely adapted for probing into soft mud in search of invertebrates, crustaceans, and small fish.

Depending on the species, the coloration of Ibises can range from white to black, with some showcasing vibrant shades of scarlet.

Ibises have spiritual significance in many cultures. In ancient Egypt, the god Thoth, associated with wisdom and knowledge, was often depicted with the head of an Ibis. Social creatures, they are known to nest in large colonies, often alongside other water birds.

Did you know? The American White Ibis, found in the southeastern United States, has a peculiar behavior of orienting its body to face the sun and wind when resting, likely to minimize heat loss.


Birds with long legs - Spoonbill
  • Scientific Name: Platalea spp.
  • Height: 80 to 93 cm (31 to 37 in)
  • Where Found: Wetlands worldwide, specific range varies by species.

Named for their unique spatula-shaped bill, Spoonbills are another entrancing group of wading birds. The bill is not just a showpiece; it’s a highly efficient tool. When feeding, a Spoonbill will sweep its open bill side-to-side in the water. Upon detecting prey, the bird rapidly snaps its bill shut.

Most species have predominantly white plumage, though some can have pink, red or yellow colorations. The Rosy Spoonbill, found in the Americas, is particularly noted for its radiant pink plumage, which is a result of its diet rich in carotenoid-containing crustaceans.

Did you know? The Spoonbill’s bill has sensitive nerve endings that help detect the vibrations and movements of prey hidden in muddy waters.

Whooping Crane

Birds with long legs - Whooping Crane
  • Scientific Name: Grus americana
  • Height: 1.3 to 1.5 m (4.3 to 4.9 ft)
  • Where Found: Wetlands in North America.

The Whooping Crane is North America’s tallest bird and is named after its resonating call that can travel over long distances. These elegant birds are recognized for their white plumage and a patch of red skin on the head.

Historically on the brink of extinction with only about 15 birds left in the 1940s, dedicated conservation efforts have slowly revived their population.

They undertake long migrations from northern Canada to the Gulf Coast in Texas. During these trips, the cranes utilize thermal updrafts to soar at high altitudes, making their journey more energy-efficient.

Did you know? Whooping Cranes have a unique and intricate dancing display used both in courtship and socialization. It involves leaps, hops, and wing-spreads and is a captivating sight to behold.

Wood Stork

Birds with long legs - Wood Stork
  • Scientific Name: Mycteria americana
  • Height: 83 to 115 cm (33 to 45 in)
  • Where Found: Wetlands and swamps of the southeastern United States, Central America, and South America.

The Wood Stork is the only stork species native to North America. With its bald, scaly head and large bill, its appearance might strike some as unusual, but it’s perfectly adapted to its environment.

The stork feeds by tactilocation, meaning it opens its bill in the water and waits for the touch of prey. When a fish comes in contact, the bird’s bill snaps shut in a lightning-fast reflex action.

Nesting in large colonies, they build their nests on trees, often over water, to safeguard their young from terrestrial predators. The nesting sites can sometimes house hundreds of pairs, making them a significant attraction for bird watchers.

Did you know? The feeding technique of the Wood Stork is so effective that it can catch and consume prey at a remarkable speed of about a fish every 20 seconds when foraging.

What Types of Birds Have Long Legs?

Birds with long legs predominantly belong to the wading birds group, a category characterized by species that frequent shallow waters in search of food. This group primarily includes herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills, and flamingos.

However, there are exceptions outside the typical wading birds, like the ostrich and cassowary, which belong to the ratite group, known for their inability to fly and adaptation to terrestrial habitats.

In essence, these birds exhibit such long legs due to their specific ecological requirements, be it wading through marshes or sprinting across savannahs. Their legs become a key feature of their anatomy, reflecting their lifestyle, habitat, and feeding habits.

Why Do These Birds Have Long Legs?

Long legs serve multiple functional purposes for these birds:

  • Foraging in Water: Many long-legged birds are waders. Their extended legs allow them to search for food in deeper waters without submerging their bodies. This gives them access to prey like fish, crustaceans, and insects in aquatic environments.
  • Thermoregulation: Birds like the flamingo use their legs to regulate body temperature. The blood vessels in their legs adjust the flow of blood to either dissipate or conserve body heat.
  • Predator Avoidance: Taller stature provides a higher vantage point, allowing these birds to spot predators from a distance and take evasive action.
  • Territorial Displays: In species like the Secretary Bird and the Ostrich, long legs play a role in courtship and territorial displays. Their lengthy strides and kicks can be a spectacle of strength and dominance.
  • Navigation in Marshy Areas: Their long legs prevent them from sinking into mud and marshy grounds, allowing them to traverse challenging terrains with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all long-legged birds waders?

No, while many long-legged birds are waders, species like the ostrich and cassowary are adapted to terrestrial habitats and don’t wade for food.

Do long legs mean the bird is a good swimmer?

Not necessarily. While some long-legged birds, like herons, can swim if needed, they primarily wade. Others, like the ostrich, avoid water altogether.

How do these birds sleep without tipping over?

Many wading birds have a specialized joint in their leg that locks, allowing them to rest or sleep while standing on one leg without falling over.

Are the long legs of these birds fragile?

Despite appearing slender, the legs of these birds are sturdy and muscular, built to support their weight and handle the demands of their environment.

Leave a Comment