Many birds benefit from having long, strong legs. The long-legged bird’s evolution has served a specific function. They can move swiftly, catching little prey or escaping from predators.
Birds, like storks and herons, use their very long legs for wading through water rather than sprinting on land. Pelicans and flamingos move about by walking on them. Even some gull species have webbed feet that aid in soaring across the water as they pursue prey.
Additionally, woodpeckers use their powerful claws and toes to scale trees and peck through cracks to find insects. So we establish that the primary function of legs is walking but their secondary function of them may vary from species to species. Keeping that in mind, we have gathered a list of birds with the longest legs.
List of Birds with Long Legs
1. Great Egret
- Scientific name: Ardea alba
- Lifespan: 15 years
- Size: 3 feet
- Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe
The Great Egret has magnificent white feathers and eyes that are bright yellow. For the aim of locating a compatible partner, they develop stunning feather plumes during the mating season that reach from the back to beyond the tail. Although they may be found breeding all throughout the country, fresh and salt marshes, marshy ponds, and tidal flats around the Atlantic coast are where they like to nest.
They have long legs, like the majority of wading birds, which are perfect for standing in shallow water and hunting for food. The Great Egret’s greatest distinguishing feature is that it flies with its neck retracted, in contrast to other heron species. The Great Egret also has direct flight, which means that it continually flaps its wings while flying in a straight and level direction. As a result, it only depends on its strong and sizable wings for takeoff.
2. Blue Heron
- Scientific name: Ardea alba
- Lifespan: 15 years
- Size: 3 feet
- Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe
The Great Blue Heron’s bottom is striped in black, grey, and white, and its back is more blue-gray than true blue. In their watery environment, they mostly consume tiny fish, however, they are happy to eat a range of things. It maintains flight by using powerful wingbeats and moves over the sky at a fairly constant pace. Its lengthy legs are utilized for wading as well as for climbing to a higher vantage point so that it may see possible prey more clearly.
The biggest herons in North America, Great Blue Herons often gather around fish hatcheries. Because of this, fish farmers sometimes have issues, and Blue Heron has developed a reputation as a nuisance. A healthier environment and cleaner hatcheries are actually maintained by the herons’ propensity to consume ill fish that spend more time at the surface, according to recent research.
3. Cattle egret
- Scientific name: Bubulcus ibis
- Lifespan: 20 years
- Size: 19-21 inches
- Native to: Africa to humid Asian tropics, from India to Japan and northern Australia
The Cattle Egret is a widespread bird that may be found in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It is thought that this bird only first appeared in central Africa and that it first expanded during the 19th century. Marshes, flood plains, pastures, meadows, and swamps are among the open, grassy environments it favors. Additionally, they are the only white egret with a yellow beaks and legs. The Cattle Egret is the greatest example of a bird with long legs that uses them to scan its surroundings and to capture flying insects by moving vertically more freely.
It mostly eats aquatic insects like water skimmers and dragonflies, but like the majority of herons, it also eats a variety of amphibians and snakes. They have adapted well to human activities and often gather at the edges of airport runways. According to estimates, they collect 50% more food when they are close to people than when they are not. They do this to wait for the aircraft to pass and blow insects outside of the grass.
4. Snowy Egret (White Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Egretta thula
- Lifespan: 16 years
- Size: 20-27 inches
- Native to: United States and southern Canada, south through Central America, the West Indies, South America, and Argentina
The Snowy Egret usually winters in California, Arizona, Virginia, and Mexico. It breeds locally from Oregon to New England, mostly near beaches. Using their long legs to prevent their plumage from being too wet and heavy, they like to hunt for crustaceans, insects, and fish in marshes, swamps, and mudflats. In order to attract females during the mating season, male Snowy Egrets grow long, lacy plumes down their necks and backs.
Due to the high demand for these lovely plumes as hat embellishments for ladies in the late 19th century—in 1886, they were worth twice as much as gold at the time—they were almost hunted to extinction. Now that they have adapted to human activities rather well, they prefer metropolitan nesting sites over those that are isolated since isolated sites often have more predators.
5. Tricolored heron
- Scientific name: Egretta tricolor
- Lifespan: 17 years
- Size: 24-26 inches
- Native to: Northeastern United States, south along the coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to northern South America as far south as Brazil
The Tricolored Heron lives throughout the Gulf Coast and along the Atlantic Coast up to Maine. It breeds in southeast New Mexico and Texas. They spend the winter as far south as the West Indies and northern South America. On their long stilt legs, they forage for fish on mudflats, bayous, coastal ponds, salt marshes, mangrove islands, and lagoons.
Aspiring bird watchers may identify this dark-colored heron easily since it is the only one of its kind to have a white belly. They were once known as the Louisiana Heron until their name was altered, much to the dismay of Louisianan ornithologists. They are one of the most common herons seen in the Deep South.
6. Wood Stork
- Scientific name: Mycteria americana
- Lifespan: at least 22 years
- Size: over 3 feet tall
- Native to: Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas
- Beak length on average is 6.6 inches (17 cm).
The Wood Stork is a native of Florida and Georgia, and it is hardly seen outside of Texas. Although it has been seen in California and Massachusetts, it is still regarded as a wandering bird rather than a migratory species. Although they have been shifting to mangrove swamps as a result of rising human pressure on their habitats, they typically nest in cypress swamps.
These birds are very powerful flyers and have been reported to soar as high as 6000 feet. They have long legs that give them a striking, gangly look and will also go up to 50 kilometers by air in quest of food. They build their nests above the water to protect the eggs from predators, the most frequent of which are raccoons.
7. Whooping Crane (Huge Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Grus americana
- Lifespan: 22 to 30 years
- Size: 5 feet tall
- Native to: Canada and America
There is presently just one wild population that migrates between breeding grounds in northern Canada and wintering sites on the Texas coast. The Whooping Crane was previously common over much of North America and spanned from Utah to New England. It favors grassy plains that are dotted with marshes and ponds, and it will consume anything that comes too near to where its stilt-like legs are standing, including frogs, fish, mollusks, small animals, and crustaceans.
With males reaching about 5 feet in height and having a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet, they are the tallest bird in North America. Sadly, accidents with power wires during migration are the primary cause of mortality for adult cranes, but there is yet hope for this species. It is considerably simpler for scientists to extract and artificially incubate them and gradually expand their numbers since they often lay two eggs but only opt to rear one baby.
8. White-faced ibis
- Scientific name: Plegadis chihi
- Lifespan: 14 years
- Size: 18.1 to 22.0 inches
- Native to: Canada, the United States, Central America and the southern half of South America
Breeding occurs between Oregon and Minnesota, and the White-Faced Ibis may be seen as far south as New Mexico and Texas. They spend the winter in southern California and Louisiana, favoring the interior salt and fresh marshes over the warmer coastal wetlands. White-faced ibis consumes fish and frogs as well as a variety of invertebrates. They are very hardy birds with some of the thickest legs relative to their size.
The wetlands around Utah’s Great Salt Lake are said to be home to the world’s biggest White-Faced Ibis nesting population. However, problems like the draining of wetlands and the extensive use of pesticides are causing their numbers to severely decline throughout North America.
9. Spoonbill Roseate
- Scientific name: Platalea ajaja
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Size: 24 inches
- Native to: southern Florida, coastal Texas, and southwestern Louisiana
- Beaks typically measure 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) in length.
Southwest Louisiana, Texas, and coastal Florida are the natural habitats of the Roseate Spoonbill. They have also been seen to mingle with other waders. They love to frolic in small flocks with other spoonbills. Spoonbill Roseate eats in shallow areas and wade in the water using their lengthy legs, moving their heads back and forth to sift through the muck with their flat bills.
This stunning bird is rare, and its rarity is increasing yearly. They are particularly sensitive to habitat deterioration, which is occurring increasingly often as a result of pollution, in their feeding and breeding areas. As a result of the devastation of wader colonies by plume hunters in the 1860s, they were all but eradicated from the United States, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that they started to recolonize Texas and Florida.
- Scientific name: Aramus guarauna
- Lifespan: n/a
- Size: 28 inches
- Native to: United States
The Limpkin is a huge, unusual marsh bird that resembles an ibis in some ways and has a slightly curled beak. In peninsular Florida and southern Mexico, they mostly consume freshwater snails, mussels, frogs, crustaceans, and insects while standing in the water. They love forested and brushy freshwater swamps and marshes, and may also be found in South America, mostly east of the Andes and never below the Equator.
Its jerky wing beats and limping-like flying gave rise to its moniker. It was originally highly widespread in Florida, but since the Florida, Apple Snail, its main food source, is declining, the state now lists it as a species of special concern. A “hobbling” of Limpkins is how they are collectively referred to.
11. American flamingo
- Scientific name: Phoeniconaias minor
- Length: 90 cm
- Wingspan: 1 m
- Weight: 2-3 Kg
- Beak length on average is 5-7 inches (12.7-17.8 cm).
The Flamingo is the following bird, which is a well-known example of a bird with long legs. Despite stragglers appearing in southern Florida, Texas, and the Galapagos Islands, the American Flamingo is mostly found in the West Indies. Saline lagoons, brackish coastal regions, inland lakes, and mudflats are their favored environments. They eat plankton, tiny fish, bacteria, diatoms, algal matter, and brine fly larvae.
The flamingo family’s most common species is this one. Its vivid pink hue, which it acquires from the food it eats, is regarded as the bird’s most recognizable feature outside of its acutely pointed black beak. They engage in large-scale courting rituals during the start of the nesting season when hundreds of birds walk in unison.
12. Jabiru (Large Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Jabiru mycteria
- Lifespan: 30 years
- Size: 5 feet
- Native to: Mexico to Argentina, except west of the Andes.
- Beak length on average is 5-7 inches (12.7-17.8 cm).
The Jabiru is another bird that we didn’t want to exclude from a list of animals with lengthy legs. Being one of the biggest flying birds in the world, the Jabiru uses a combination of powerful, slow wing beats and brief glides to remain afloat when soaring on thermals and updrafts. This would be problematic if they were just straight fliers. They are widespread in parts of Brazil and Paraguay but have also been seen in neighboring nations.
Their name, which means “bloated neck” in the native Tupi-Guarani language, refers to their peculiar, swollen look. They move quite awkwardly and joltingly on the ground due to their legs tripping them up, yet they are elegant in the air and will fly with other members of their species. The term “filth of storks” refers to a collection of Jabiru.
13. Scarlet ibis (Red Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Eudocimus ruber
- Lifespan: 16 years
- Size: 22 to 30 inches
- Native to: Northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil
The Scarlet Ibis is a stunning orange-red ibis with black wingtips, as its name indicates. They are particularly unique in that their bills are pink outside of mating season and black within. In South America and the Caribbean islands, they are found in mangrove swamps and the nearby muddy estuaries. Like most of the birds on this list, they can wade through these wetlands because to their large legs, which also enable them to navigate the mangrove roots that are submerged under the water.
Since it was originally targeted for its striking red plumage, this tough bird enjoys protection on a global scale, has fully recovered, and now poses no threat to the natural community. They construct their nests on trees that are far above the water in order to stay safe from predators, using a design that has been referred to as “artless” or “a loose platform of sticks.”
12 of the world’s longest-living birds are another option.
14. Grey heron
- Scientific name: Ardea cinerea
- Lifespan: 5 years
- Size: 40 inches
- Native to: Europe and Asia
The Gray Heron is a large grey-wading bird, as you would have imagined. Additionally, during the mating season, its yellow beak and legs become scarlet. Although their habitat varies throughout North America, they like all types of shallow water so they may make use of their stilt-like legs. They eat large fish, however, this might change depending on the time of year and the supply.
Although they are not monogamous, they have been reported to repeatedly reuse their nest from the previous mating season. Every mating season, they pick a new mate, and they often opt to leave the shared nest or carry it to a different location to avoid conflict.
15. Purple Heron
- Scientific name: Ardea purpurea
- Lifespan: 20 years
- Size: 31–38 in
- Native to: Central and southern Europe and parts of North Africa as far as Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan
Similar to the Blue Heron, the Purple Heron’s name is rather misleading since it is really more of a tawny brown and white hue with a few blue-gray streaks. If you manage to identify one, it has a black crown with a lovely long black plume and a black line across its face and behind its eye. However, since they mix in nicely with the long-stemmed plants that are typical of their environment, their long orange legs make this challenging.
In an effort to shield their eggs from predators like snakes, they construct their nests on a platform made of sticks near the ground and close to the water. They’ve also been observed to utilize kind of “tools,” dropping a feather or leaf on the water’s surface and waiting for an inquisitive fish to come to investigate.
16. American Purple Gallinule
- Scientific name: Porphyrio martinicus
- Lifespan: 7 years
- Size: 10–15 in
- Native to: Southern Florida, the Gulf and Pacific coast of Mexico, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean
The name of this medium-sized rail, the Purple Gallinule, refers to its vivid and unusual plumage. It may sound like a chicken with its low, grating cry, but chicken sounds don’t often emanate from the middle of a lake. Year-round residents of the Florida peninsula, they also breed along the southern states’ shores.
For the winter, they move south and make their homes in shallow marshes and swamps around the shores of Central America, including the Yucatan peninsula. It uses its large toes and strong legs to balance on top of lily pads and other plants as it walks along the vegetation at the water’s edge in search of food. Additionally, it’s been seen foraging while swimming.
17. Reddish egret
- Scientific name: Egretta rufescens
- Length: 80 cm
- Wingspan: 125 cm
- Weight: 600 gm
- Beaks typically measure 7.3–9.2 cm long
There are two exceedingly unusual variants of the Reddish Egret: a dark and light. Compared to the dark variant, which is greyish blue with reddish feathers on its head and neck, the light variation is white with a bi-colored beak that is pink with a black tip. It is said to be plumper for its size compared to other herons, with a more rounded body and somewhat knobbier knees that lower the center of gravity and enable them to stoop over the water in a “squat” more readily than other egrets.
The Gulf Coast’s coastal lagoons are home to this heron, which is arguably the least well-known in all of North America. They use a special hunting method in which they use shadows to draw fish to the surface before attempting to capture them with fast stabbing actions. Its feeding habits are said to be the most diverse and vigorous of any heron in North America.
18. Sandhill crane
- Scientific name: Grus canadensis
- Length: 90 cm
- Wingspan: 100 cm
- Weight: 3-4 Kg
- Beaks typically measure 4 inches
A crimson patch on its head and a white patch on each cheek give the Sandhill Crane its distinctive beauty. It is sometimes confused for the Great Blue Heron when seen from a distance, however, the Sandhill Crane flies with its neck stretched rather than curled in. Many people who live in its ecosystem think that if a sandhill crane flies over you, you’ll have good luck because of its long legs and striking appearance.
The first sign of a flock of these birds is their low, rattling cry, which is sometimes likened to the American crows. Although they are opportunistic foragers that consume more plants than the majority of bigger birds, the animal element of their diet is still vital since it contains critical amino acids.
19. American bittern
- Scientific name: Botaurus lentiginosus
- Lifespan: 8 years
- Size: 60 cm
- Native to: United States and Canada
The American Bittern is a large wading bird that excels at hiding in its surroundings. They are particularly difficult to see because of their strongly striped white underbelly with dark brown stripes that may readily blend in with the foliage surrounding them. Their primary food source is aquatic insects like dragonflies and waterbugs, but they may also consume a variety of amphibians and snakes.
As can be seen in the picture, this bird has long legs for wading. It has an exceedingly unique call that has been compared to the sound of an old wooden water pump. Because of the loud booming cry, the species is known locally as “mire-drum” and “thunder-pumper.”
- Scientific name: Balaeniceps rex
- Lifespan: almost 36 years
- Size: 3.5 – 5 feet
- Native to: endemic to Africa
Shoebill which seems to be a bird that resembles a dinosaur and seems to have been plucked from the primordial era is another scary bird in our list of birds with long legs. Shoebills are native to East Africa. Additionally, they are known as “whale head storks,” “whale-headed storks,” or “shoe-billed storks.” These birds have enormous bills that resemble shoes, as suggested by their multiple names.
This species was classified in the order Ciconiiformes, which also includes storks, because of its stork-like appearance.
You may be relieved to learn that these birds are very good with people despite their frightening looks. They have a tendency to stare at humans who approach too closely, but they haven’t been reported to be violent.
You may expect to hear one of these birds making a machine gun-like noise with its beak if you ever came across one.
21. Marabou Stork
- Scientific name: Leptoptilos crumenifer
- Lifespan: 25 years in wild
- Size: 48 inches
- Native to: tropical Africa
This is not a stork you want to mess with; its wingspan can reach nine and a half feet. They are huge wading birds that are indigenous to Africa, notably in the region close to the Sahara.
These birds are often seen in close proximity to landfills, waiting to grab leftovers and garbage. However, they are also known to consume waste and even corpses if they can locate them.
As a result, it is never advised to consume the flesh of these birds since they pose a health risk.
These birds have enormous sword-like bills that are very strong and are not something you want to get into contact with. Many people consider the Marabou Stork, sometimes known as the Undertaker Bird because of its bad temperament, to be an abomination in Africa.
22. Green heron
- Scientific name: Butorides virescens
- Lifespan: 10 years
- Size: 18 inches
- Native to: Northern South America, Mexico, and the United States
With the exception of eastern Washington to the Dakotas, the Green Heron breeds across the majority of the country. It likes to spend the winters near rivers, seas, lakes, and ponds on the west coast and in the southern United States. It is a scavenger that will pounce on anything that is tiny enough to fit in its mouth, preferring fish as its main food source. Although it officially has the smallest legs of all herons, it nevertheless has legs that are much longer than those of other birds and are mostly utilized as perches and wading stilts.
It’s really one of the rare bird species that use tools; it often scatters bait over the water’s surface before snatching the smaller fish that it draws. They were given their own classification because, unlike the other two, they tended to travel beyond the mating season. They are officially a subcategory of the Green-Backed Herons, which also contains the Striated Heron and the Galapagos Heron.
23. Long-Billed Curlew
- Scientific name: Numenius americanus
- Lifespan: up to ten years
- Size: 21-26 inches
- Native to: southwestern Canada to the western half of the United States
The huge water bird known as the long-billed curlew has extremely long beaks and legs. It has white undersides and an eye stripe that runs from the corner of its eyes to its chin. Its color varies from dark brown to golden brown.
This long, narrow beak helps the birds identify food and defends them from predators as they hunt for animals on land and in the water.
The birds make brief flights of little more than 100 meters from their nests and spend the summer months largely feeding on insects while nesting on the ground in tiny ephemeral colonies. In the winter, they will travel up to 1000 kilometers from their nesting grounds to find invertebrates like worms and mollusks using their long bills, which may reach a length of 25 cm.
24. Yellow-billed stork (White Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Mycteria ibis
- Lifespan: about 19 years
- Size: 35–41 in
- Native to: Eastern Africa
Another long-beaked bird with a body length of almost 3 feet is the yellow-billed stork, which is most often seen in Africa.
When birds discover food from the air, yellow-billed storks utilize their long, thin beaks to rapidly stab them in order to capture huge fish or frogs. Species are less likely to locate little food on dry terrain since these birds are often found close to freshwater sources. These birds get along well with other bird species, often congregating in enormous flocks with thousands of individual birds!
25. White Stork
- Scientific name: Ciconia ciconia
- Lifespan: 22 years
- Size: 95 to 110 centimeters
- Native to: across Europe and Asia and winters south to South Africa
- Beak length on average is 6-8 inches (15-20 cm).
With white feathers covering its body and long, thin legs that seem especially graceful in flight, the white stork is one of the most attractive long-beaked birds. Since these birds prefer meat over vegetables and forage across bigger regions, they often fly close to the ground in pursuit of tiny creatures like mice and lizards.
White storks have been seen trailing flocks of birds in the hopes that the birds would flush out food before they arrive, despite the fact that this is typically a solitary bird’s habit. The disadvantage of this sort of behavior is that when several birds congregate together, it becomes more difficult to fly effortlessly since birds are continuously colliding with one another.
26. Straw-Necked Ibis (Birds with Long Legs)
- Scientific name: Threskiornis spinicollis
- Length: 75 cm
- Wingspan: 120 cm
- Weight: 1.5 Kg
The straw-necked ibis is a bird found in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia that is a member of the Threskiornithidae family.
Their habitat consists of farmed pastures, the borders of marshes, lagoons, wet grasslands, and dry grasslands. It also contains shallow freshwater wetlands. The bills of male birds are longer than those of female birds. The straw-necked ibis may be identified by its look of black wings, multicolored sheen, dark feathers on the back and collar, and white feathers on the ventral regions of the body.
They have red and black-colored feet and a downward-curving beak. The straw-necked ibis received its common name from the presence of unique feathers that resemble straw on its neck. These are known to consume grasshoppers, grubs, yabbies, grasshoppers, crustaceans, and locusts.