A seagull standing on one leg..

16 Birds That Stand On One Leg (with Photos, ID & Info)

In this article, we will explore 16 Birds That Stand On One Leg with Photos, ID & Info. This article is going to cover a list of birds that stand on one leg while they are conserving heat, resting or preening themselves.

We have included photos and some basic information about each bird, so you can identify them if you come across them in the wild. 


White stork on grass  standing on one leg.
Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

Storks are large birds that live in most parts of the world. They are very social and tend to be seen in groups on farms, around parks, or sometimes alone. One of the most distinctive features about storks is their ability to stand on one leg for long periods of time.

Scientists have studied this unique skill and found out why they do it so often. It turns out that standing on one leg allows them to conserve energy while also staying warm by reducing heat loss from their large surface area.

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A Canada Goose standing on one leg.
Image by DerSilent from Pixabay

Geese are among the most commonly seen birds in North America. They live in lakes, marshes, and fields where they can feed on plants or insects. Geese typically balance their weight by standing on one leg while the other rests tucked into their body.

This method enables them to conserve energy and protect themselves from predators. The other reason why geese may occasionally stand on one leg is because it helps maintain their body temperature; standing like this allows blood circulation to the feet.

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Hawks occasionally stand on one leg. It has been observed in most birds of prey, and the behavior is usually attributed to thermoregulation. This makes sense because it provides a great deal of heat loss through the unfeathered tarsus (a joint between the foot and lower leg). It also helps keep their other feet warm by insulating them from cold ground.

It’s not uncommon for hawks to remain stationary, perched on a tree branch or fence post, for hours at a time. Sometimes they may adopt an unusual stance, balancing on one leg while the other is stretched out in front of them or behind them.

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Avocets are a type of bird that live in wetlands, such as marshes, salt marshes, and estuaries along the coastlines of North America and all over the world. These birds have been observed standing on one leg to save energy when resting.

This is because it’s an easier position for them to stay in. When avocets need to sleep or spend time standing still, they often use one leg instead of two to conserve energy. 

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A Pink flamingo standing on one leg.
Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

Flamingos are a common sight in the swamps and lagoons of southern Florida. But what you may not know is that they sometimes stand on one leg, usually during long periods of sleep or while feeding. Why do flamingos stand on one leg?

It’s because their bodies have been specially adapted to conserve body heat by reducing blood flow to those extremities, as well as saving energy from unnecessary muscle use.

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Birds that stand on one leg have developed a clever way to stay warm. One such bird is the black-necked stilt, which resides in the Western Hemisphere. When temperatures drop below freezing, these birds will balance themselves on one leg while keeping their other leg tucked underneath them for warmth.

It has something to do with thermoregulation, which means it controls its own body temperature and protects itself from cold weather and harsh conditions. 


A Mallard Duck standing on one leg.
Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Ducks have a way of staying warm even in the coldest climates. One technique they use is called counter-current heat exchange, which uses arteries and veins to redistribute blood around their bodies more efficiently.

When ducks use their legs as heaters, by only using one at a time, they are able to maintain a constant body temperature. Ducks will tuck the unused leg close to their body, which creates an extra layer of insulation against the water or air temperature.

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Swans are known for their elegance and beauty, but they have a way of staying warm even in the coldest climates. One technique they use is called counter-current heat exchange, which uses arteries and veins to redistribute blood around their bodies more efficiently.

When this happens, colder blood flows through the large vessels near the surface of the body where it can easily be warmed by contact with air or water before flowing back into deeper parts of the body.


A Grey Heron standing on one leg along the water edge.
Image by Annette Meyer from Pixabay

Herons are able to stand on one leg for long periods of time without tiring. This is because they have a counter-current heat exchange system that helps them stay warm.

Standing on one leg, herons reduce the amount of surface area exposed to the cold air, keeping their legs warmer than if they were standing on two legs. The blood vessels in their feet will also be compressed, which means less blood flow and therefore less heat loss through the skin’s surface.

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Have you ever seen an egret standing on one leg? You might have thought it was balancing or resting, but actually there is a reason why they do this. Egrets are migratory birds that live in temperate climates. They are built to survive cold weather by being very good at controlling their body heat loss.

When the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, egrets will stand on one leg so that they can use their other foot to control how much blood flows through their feet. In this way, they can adjust the amount of blood flow to maintain a warmer temperature.

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A pair of white Ibises relaxing on one leg.
Photo by Rick Meyers on Unsplash

Ibis is a genus of long-legged wading birds found across much of Africa, southern Eurasia and in wetlands and estuaries across the United States. It’s not uncommon to see these birds standing on one leg. But why do they do this? The answer has to do with their feet. Ibises have an adaptation called “rete mirabile” that reduces heat loss in cold weather.

This special network of blood vessels, located at the base of the toes, allows warm blood from the body to flow close to cool skin for rapid cooling before returning back to the heart and lungs where it warms up again.​​​​​​​


A Bald Eagle resting on one leg on a tree.
Photo by Wilson Malone from Pexels

Eagles are known for their majestic, soaring flight. But sometimes they stand on one leg. What’s up with that? Eagles, like many other animals, stand on one leg to reduce heat loss in cold weather.

A “rete mirabile” is a network of blood vessels that act as an internal radiator and dissipate heat generated by the heart and major organs. The system works much better when there are two legs standing upright rather than one leg outstretched with less surface area exposed to the air. ​​​​​​​

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A Water Rail on one foot.
Image by Paul Edney from Pixabay

Rails are one of the most beautiful and elegant birds. You may have seen them standing on one leg in open fields, marshes, and near bodies of water.​​​​​​​ It’s not because they’re lazy! They do it to conserve energy while eating or resting.

When a rail is inactive, its heart rate slows down dramatically. This lowers their oxygen consumption, which reduces the amount of food that needs to be consumed to sustain life. The less work an animal does during this time period means it can spend the next few days recuperating and fasting, conserving energy for when it is needed.


A Wood Sandpiper standing on one leg alongthe water shoreline.
Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

Many people know that sandpipers stand on one leg to rest, but few are aware of the other reasons why they do this. Standing on one leg conserves energy because it is easier for the bird to maintain balance when only using one foot.

Standing also helps them conserve body heat in cooler climates by keeping their other foot off the ground and exposed to air currents. The result is a warmer lower half while preserving more energy than if both feet were used for standing​​​​​​​.


A Sandhill Crane standing along the shore.
Image by Ettrujillo2 from Pixabay

Cranes stand on one leg to conserve heat. It is not unusual for a crane to periodically shift from one leg to the other during cold weather, and there are many theories as to why they do this.

The experts point out that standing on just one leg can reduce blood flow and preserve heat because of reduced surface area contact with the ground, which reduces heat loss through convection or conduction. This would be especially important in an environment where snow or ice cover could increase such losses​​​​​​​.

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A Seagull standing on one leg.
Image by Jimmie Bartlett from Pixabay

Gulls (Seagulls) are the most abundant of all seabirds. They range over all the world’s oceans and inland waterways, especially in coastal areas. There are many factors that contribute to the migration of gulls, but one is to avoid freezing. It’s difficult for birds to stay warm and dry during cold winter months, so they will do whatever it takes.

One way that gulls minimize heat loss is by standing on one leg while roosting or resting on a perch. Standing on one leg minimizes surface area exposed, which reduces the amount of body heat lost through radiation and convection. ​​​​​​​

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