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Do birds kneel?

on 3rd January 2009

Daisy O’Neill’s post on Jabiru’s Prayer shows the Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus), “kneeling” – although the so-called knees bend backward, as compared to ours bending forwards.

Lena Chow sent in an image of a Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) that shows it “kneeling” or a reverse kneel, as she calls it, and a link to the blog, Bill of the Birds, that gives an explanation as to why the bird rests that way (left).

As Bill Thompson explains, birds are actually tip-toeing around. Birds walk on their toes. These toes are attached to the end of the long tarsometatarsus, which is actually formed by the fusion of the tarsals and metatarsals. In humans, the tarsals or ankle bones and metatarsals, the foot bones at the ends of which are attached the toe bones, are short and not fused.

So what we assume as the bird’s knee, the joint that bends backwards, is actually equivalent to our ankle. The bird’s knee is one level up, next to the body. So the stork is actually resting on its heels.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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