Peer pressure in the wild

On more than one occasion I have watched birds stand perfectly motionless on one leg in the water. Enquiring minds want to know why.

If you believe what you read on the internet, there seem to be two primary reasons. One is to prevent heat loss which is greater in the water than air. The second is to assist hunting birds – one leg in the water appears more like a reed or stick to unsuspecting prey.

Thankfully I’m not gullible enough to get sucked into believing those improbable theories! A much more likely reason is peer pressure. The neighbor’s kid starts standing on one foot and pretty soon all the kids run home and tell their parents that everyone is doing it. After a few unplanned baths, all the cool kids are standing on one foot in the water. The fact that it looks ridiculous and will likely cause arthritis in the future doesn’t seem to deter the birds. If there was a logical reason for doing it, that would be entirely different.

Latest Comments

  1. Steve Gingold says:

    I always figured they did it for the same reason I dry my feet after showering while balancing on one leg then the other…centering practice.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That’s another great reason I didn’t think of! I have to wonder why they keep practising since they seem pretty good at it. They must be going for expert status.


  2. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Maybe one day a bird will tell you! You know, “little birdy in the ear” has a story to tell.


  3. Tuxedo Sophisticated Cat says:

    I like your reasoning. 🙂


  4. melissabluefineart says:

    Hahaha! You have made my day 🙂


  5. Seenorway says:

    I’ve always thought it was due to ‘hunting prey’, but then you may find birds doing it out of water as well.
    It might just releaving fatigue? LIke what we’re doing leaning up to a wall, tree or something?


  6. Gunta says:

    I think they do it for sympathy or pity. It took me the longest time to figure out that they weren’t actually veterans of some bird war, come home as amputees.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      There’s a reason I didn’t think of but it makes perfect sense. I’ve done a double take on some birds and wondered where the rest of it went.


  7. David says:

    When I was very little my dad told me that with regard to flamingos (and maybe it applies to other water birds as well) the reason they raise one leg and stand on the other is because if they raised both legs they would fall in the water. I miss his wisdom.


  8. Lavinia Ross says:

    A Coot, of all birds to photograph in a one-legged stance! Now there’s a trend-setting species, not a follower! Coots probably started the whole one-legged thing. 🙂


  9. Mike Powell says:

    I’ve always thought it was a form of tai chi or yoga. It helps the bird to cleanse its mind and focus on its inner being.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Susan Portnoy says:

    I’m with you. Peer pressure. It’s so obvious.


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