Feet of the Swiftie

To: "'David Rosalky'" <>, "'Geoffrey Dabb'" <>, <>
Subject: Feet of the Swiftie
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Sun, 5 Sep 2010 17:03:08 +1000
Hi David,
The two features may go together. It may also be related to that parrots can use their beak to hold on when climbing (can any other birds do that?). Several other orders of birds also have zygodactyl feet but are not agile in climbing in that way. For example woodpeckers may be similar but surely owls and osprey are not. For those who don't know (and those that do), zygodactyl feet are two toes forward and toe back, instead of the usual bird pattern of three forward and one back.
-----Original Message-----
From: David Rosalky [
Sent: Sunday, 5 September 2010 2:54 PM
To: 'Geoffrey Dabb';
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Feet of the Swiftie

I suspect that has something to do with the zygodactyly displayed by all Psitticaformes.  Or, they evolved zygodactyly because it allowed more effective foraging.  Cuckoos are also zygodactylic.  Any shots of their acrobatics?


David Rosalky


From: Philip Veerman [
Sent: Sunday, 5 September 2010 2:32 PM
To: 'Geoffrey Dabb';
Subject: [canberrabirds] Feet of the Swiftie


That is really interesting. Sure it is a parrot thing. Has this been described before? Actually it probably happens so fast that we would not normally notice it, until cameras can show it. What is really interesting about this (as a sometimes bird illustrator) is that birds are almost never drawn in books in postures anything like this. Why is that? I can only suggest that I think if I had tired to draw that, it would seem so contrived that it wouldn't work. Not even William Cooper in his great drawings in Forshaw's books give anything like the impression of Geoff's pictures here. Can anyone find painted images of birds in books in postures as acrobatic as these (maybe apart from Audubon).




-----Original Message-----
From: Geoffrey Dabb [
Sent: Saturday, 4 September 2010 10:31 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] Feet of the Swiftie

Not much of a day for outdoor birdwatching, so another look at the Swift Parrots of yesterday.  One of the interesting things about these little birds is their gymnastic ability.  They seem to be able to adapt to any foliage configuration to get at a feed.  In the below composition I have marked with violet arrows the feet positions of 4 feeding birds.



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