Posted by: David Green | January 15, 2010



The recent cold spell provided an opportunity to look for tracks in the garden. Delicate impressions in the snow betrayed the presence of countless garden birds. A fox had crossed the front lawn on a couple of occasions. But the most impressive tracks appeared yesterday and appeared to be a large bird. This got me looking for Big British Birds, none of which seemed to match.

Bird footprints in the snow, longest toe 7 cm, £2 coin for scale. Probably a moorhen, a small(ish) bird with large feet!

After a bit of lateral thinking I decided it might be a smaller bird with big feet. Maybe something that lived near water since the cold spell has frozen many local ponds. Further searches suggested the most likely candidate was a moorhen. Moorhens, like all birds of the gallinule family have large feet. The long toes help to spread the weight of their relatively large bodies as they walk across pond lillies and other aquatic vegetation. The name moorhen is misleading it is a corruption of mirehen, which gives a truer picture of the natural habitat!


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