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Flamingos are famous for their pink coloring, curved beaks, and overall elegance. They’re often seen wading in shallow waters, showing the above-water world what they look like from the legs up. You’re less likely to catch a glimpse of a flamingo’s feet, though, but they’re down there, holding them upright. So, do flamingos have webbed feet?
Evolution is a wild thing. Living things naturally adapt to their environments over time, and the best, most efficient among them survives, passing along their superior traits to the following generations. Flamingos are no exception, and what they walk on is a piece of the puzzle.
Do Flamingos Have Webbed Feet?
Yes, like many other birds, flamingos do have webbed feet. These serve a very important purpose for these water-loving birds: stability.
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Pretty much all flamingo food can be found in shallow waters, like in lakes and marshes. The birds will wade out into these waters, then search for food below the water’s surface. But sometimes, that food is lodged in the mud and sand at the bottom of the body of water, and the flamingos can’t get it to come out. So, how can that be achieved?
Those webbed feet sure do come in handy (or foot-y, maybe? I don’t know, I digress) here. Flamingos will use their webbed feet to stomp on the ground underwater, stirring up trouble and pushing the tasty algaes and crustaceans into the open water for the birds to scoop up into their waiting beaks.
What Else Are the Webbed Feet Good For?
There’s much more to this than just stomping.
Flamingos live and eat in wet, swampy areas. Such terrain is not known for its stability. Soft mud is very easy to slip in. But flamingo feet are webbed and wide, giving them a solid base for every step and a firm pad to place their weight when standing in position. No sinking, and plenty of pace when necessary. Comparatively, human feet are more slender relative to our flamingo counterparts, which makes us more liable to slide on muddy materials. Thank you, whoever invented boots.
But that’s not all. You probably haven’t seen flamingos swim very much, but they can, and they sometimes do to find new spots for food. Plus, sometimes going into deeper waters is safer for flamingos to avoid predators that don’t want to go so far out. Once flamingos get too deep, they can’t stand up anymore and need to start afloat somehow. Their webbed feet serve as nice propellers to push them through and above the water - they’re much more effective than they would be without the webbing in between their toes.
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Lastly, their webbed feet help flamingos take off for flight from water. Thanks to their stems, flamingos can “run” on water for a handful of seconds, building up the momentum to eventually launch themselves into the air. That’s when the wings take over and the feet step back, but without that webbing providing the birds with a wide, flat surface to use for the aquatic runway, flight would be a much bigger burden.
What Should I Do With This Information?
Impress your friends and co-workers with your knowledge of flamingo appendages? I’m not sure, and it’s not really my problem, but definitely don’t get your feet surgically retrofitted with webbing between your toes. Your socks and shoes wouldn’t fit anymore, and other people might fear and avoid you. However, your swimming could get better, and maybe you want other people to fear and avoid you. But if you want other people to fear and avoid you, then you have much bigger problems that I hope you resolve soon. And as for improving your swimming, there are lessons for that.
The moral of the story is: leave webbed feet for the experts, like flamingos.