Monday, January 26, 2009

Counting Toes

I like my seat by the window.
It seems a good gathering place—
I, on the inside, typing and looking out,
while they, from the branch look in.
For the most part, perching birds, or passerines, who, between trips to the feeders or hops along the ground, light on the small branches and rest a while. Or holding a small, black sunflower seed carefully between their toes, skillfully tap at it until they can pry a tender morsel from within.
Braced against a cold wind, I can barely see their toes, three forward and “thumb” behind, wrapped tightly and tucked in warmly beneath fluffed feathers. Reds, and blues, greens and golds--they fill this small tree with their colorful forms.
Perched throughout the branches.
And watch me watching.

Chickadee on branch

With them, but a different sort, of a different order, this little Downy, whose two-toe forward, two-toe backward stance makes him a great climber--like a parrot, not a passerine. Up and down the trunks he hops, barely pausing long enough to look around.
Never pausing to perch.
And never seeing me, tapping, from the other side of the glass.

Downy Woodpecker

Passerines, birds in the order Passeriformes, are perching birds and make up more than 50 percent of bird species in the world. They have anisodactyl feet, meaning three toes facing forward, while the hallux is behind.
Woodpeckers belong to the order Piciformes. They possess zygodactyl feet, meaning the toes are arranged in pairs, the second and third toe in front, while the fourth and hallux are behind.
Other birds with zygodactyl feet include parrots, macaws, parakeets, cuckoos, roadrunners and owls.


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Susan Gets Native said...

And one of the COOL things about owls is that they can be anisodactyl OR zygodactyl, depending on the situation. That outer toe can be used like an opposable thumb, to either perch or to hang onto wriggly prey.
Have I mentioned that I love owls?
: )

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I just couldn't wait to see what toes you were counting. tee hee.. I too like to see those sweet little toes wrapped around a seed or limb.

Kallen305 said...

Lovely photos and words. I felt as if I were there watching the birds with you. The chickadee photos are precious.

mon@rch said...

LOL . . the title pulled me into this! Great job and the pattern of bird feet are great study subjects! :)

nina said...

Yes, toes are pretty COOL! They tell so much about their owner, don't they!

Angela said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your words and photos each day.

Thankyou for your lovely posts.

Kelly said...

...loved that post...very fun!
...and the chickadee...very cute!
Thanks for the info. I didn't know the details on toes...

jozien said...

Thanks for the lesson! I didn't know all that. And wonder now about one woodpecker we have here, named the three-toed woodpecker. Is he the odd ball out?

bobbie said...

the photos are so great!
Toes are cool - and extremely useful.

giggles said...

I often don't give chickadee-dee-dees much thought or time, they tend to be rather common around here...but you've given them such...such...respect.... Great fo"toes" and info!

KaHolly said...

As always, a delightful post! I love how you tie in the sharing of your prose with interesting information.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Great pictures and excellent information Nina, what more could be asked for? :O)
Wiggers World

Nature Nut said...

What a great title for this set of pictures! How cute!

nina said...

Jozien--It seems he is, and as always, a rule is not complete without its exception! I found info here.

Barb said...

Wonderful pics and prose once again! I wish one of my feeders was a wee bit closer to the window.

Deborah Godin said...

Nature is so amazing! Just imagine us eating by holding food in our toes and bending way over! Or banging our heads against the fridge!! (that might actually be good for dieters...)

Vickie said...

I got the most excited about bird toes the day I saw a titmouse hold a dogwood berry with his toes through my lens. It seemed impossible he could perch on the sides of those little feet and hold a berry at the same time. Great post.

Photo Cache said...

I love reading your text. And the photos are very good too.

Mary said...

I remember Monarch wrote a post about a year ago on bird toes. I laughed at the subject at first but I found it to be fascinating!

Your Chickie sequence is precious.