The Elements of Evolution (23-12-2) Manipulation continued


Beaks are not the only manipulative tool birds have. The feet, and especially the claws at the end of the toes, are adapted to lifestyle. Ground dwellers often have elongated hind claws which help from sinking into soft sand or mud. Tree climbers have curved claws that can cling to rough bark and climb vertical surfaces. Birds that grasp and tear at their prey have strong and highly curved claws.

◊ ◊ ◊

Long bird necks are uncommon because they are vulnerable to attack and readily radiate body heat. Hence, birds with long necks have a protective posture: fold the neck and tuck the head into the body. This pulls the neck muscles close to the warmth of the body core without sacrificing outreach as need be.

In flight, plumage covers the neck and smooths the angular contours of the shoulders, reducing drag via unbroken airflow. Long-necked migratory birds fly with the neck extended to optimize aerodynamics.