Masked Finfoot’s feet

on 16th January 2010

The recent sighting of the Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata) in Singapore has generated numerous of images, mostly portrait shots but there are behaviour shots as well.

The Masked Finfoot is adapted for an aquatic habitat but this does not mean that it is clumsy on land. On land it can run fast and even clamber into trees, moving around the branches with agility. This is made possible by the feet that are not fully webbed. Like in coots and grebes, the feet are lobed. This enables the finfoot to propel itself in water, yet do not encumber them on land. And also allows it to move into trees, not an easy task should the feet be fully webbed.

So far, two photographers, Dr Eric Tan (above) and Calvin Chang (below) have managed to capture images of the finfoot’s feet. The legs and feet are bright pea green and yellow. This is also the case with the two other species: the African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis) has bright yellow or salmon red legs and feet while the Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica) has yellow feet and black banded and striped legs.

As the coloured legs and feet do not have a role in courtship or other behavioural displays, it has been speculated that such colours may help deter some underwater predators from attacking the finfoot while it is in the water. After all, yellow-and-black-stripes is classic warning colour combination in nature as seen in wasps, snakes and caterpillars.

Images by Dr Eric Tan (top) and Calvin Chang (bottom)

Bertram, B. C. R., 1996. Family Heliornithidae (Finfoots). In del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 210-217.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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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