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Can Birds Walk Backwards?

Can Birds Walk Backwards?

We usually look at birds and see their ability to fly without even thinking about their ability to walk. Nevertheless, there are birds that are built better for walking because they can’t even fly. While that may be the case, we may still wonder whether or not birds are as capable as other ground-based animals when using their legs. That said, can birds walk backward?

Most birds can walk backward but they just don’t always do it. However, there are some birds that are not physically capable of walking backward. A good example is an emu, which is not like the ostrich because it can’t walk backward.

Even though most birds are not built to be as efficient on the ground as they are when flying, they can still most definitely walk backward with only a few birds that are exempted from that general statement. That said, a lot of people don’t think that they can walk backward primarily because they don’t ever see birds walk backward. And that is something we will look into in this article.

Can birds walk backward?

Most birds can walk backward. In fact, this is a behavior that you may actually see in chickens from time to time in case you have ever taken care of poultry. There are even some other domesticated birds such as crows or parrots that learn how to walk backward by watching people and other animals do it.

Walking backward is not a normal thing that birds often do but they can still do it when they pick the behavior up or when there is something wrong with them. For example, chickens don’t usually walk backward but, when they do, it’s a sign of vitamin E and selenium deficiency. And, as we said, domesticated birds pick this behavior up as it is not one of the usual things that birds do by nature.

Still, it is quite rare to see a bird walking backward to the point that it is quite understandable for us to believe that they can’t do so. It isn’t even wrong to think that they can’t walk backward because there are other animals that are physically incapable of doing that. Of course, there is also a species of bird that, unlike its other avian cousins, can’t move backward.

Why do some people think birds can’t walk backward?

Before we get to know more about the bird that can’t walk backward, you might wonder why some people actually think that birds can’t walk backward. Well, we only have a few reasons that can lead us to the answer to that question but these reasons will shed light as to why it is easy to make the assumption that birds are not physically capable of walking backward.

They don’t see them doing so

First off, the reason why some people think that birds can’t walk backward is due to how they almost never see them doing so. Ask yourself personally if you have ever seen a bird walking backward. You would be surprised to know that you probably have never seen one doing so unless you actually have a pet bird at home.

The reason why birds don’t walk backward is simply that don’t have a reason to do so. In most cases, a lot of animals move backward whenever they are threatened by a predator or anything that is similarly dangerous. In your personal experience, one of the few moments you would walk backward is when someone or something menacing is approaching you. That is similar to animals.

However, birds don’t move backward even though they are threatened because they can just simply fly away at the sight of anything that is dangerous such as a predator. In the case of flightless birds such as the chicken, you would see it flapping its wings while pushing off the ground to carry itself backward instead of actually walking or running backward. Meanwhile, in ostriches, they probably have no reason to walk backward because they don’t have a lot of natural predators and, even if they do, they can simply run away from them.

From there, it boils down to habits because of how birds have evolved to do the most efficient way for them to escape a certain situation such as flying away or jumping backward. Walking backward just isn’t something that is efficient for them to do at any given moment.

Birds don’t like to walk backward

Another reason is that they are simply wired that way. For instance, there are some ground-based birds that do not walk backward (even though they can) because of how their brains are wired to make sure that they keep their body upright whenever they are walking. Consequently, moving backward shifts their center of balance, which would prevent their bodies from being upright. For them, it just doesn’t seem natural to walk backward while shifting their body’s center of gravity.

Leg design

The third reason why people think some birds can’t move backward is due to how their legs are designed. This is something you will see in the flamingo, which has one of the longest legs in the bird kingdom. It might appear that flamingos bend their skinny legs backward when they walk, which leads some people to think that they can’t do this to move backward. But this is a common misconception. 

Still, it isn’t rare for some bird owners to have birds that are trained to walk backward. These are most likely domesticated birds that have brains that are not wired similarly to their wild counterparts. As such, when trained the right way or if they mimic how people and other pets move backward, such birds may develop the natural tendency of moving backward as well.

Which birds can’t walk backward?

As mentioned, not all birds are physically built to be able to walk backward. The best example and only known bird that can’t walk backward is the emu, which is regarded as the second-largest bird in the world

Emus are large flightless birds that are similar to ostriches in terms of their appearance but are smaller than them. Still, they are quite large and are second only to ostriches in terms of size. But, unlike their ostrich cousins, emus cannot walk backward and can only walk forward. They make up for their inability to walk backward by being able to sprint very fast thanks to their calf muscles, which are not present in other bird species. 

Some people point out how these birds have brains that are wired differently while others say that their calf muscles prevent them from doing so. Still, there are no clear answers to why emus are not capable of walking backward. It can probably be due to how its knee joints prevent it from doing so but the fact of the matter is that emus are some of the few animals that are not physically capable of moving backward. Emus are also the only known birds that are not known to be able to physically move backward.