Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pectinate Toes

I have long been aware that herons have a pectinate toe.  This is a comb-like, serrated structure on the edge of their midde claw.  The comb is used as a preening tool.  Despite many attempts at photographing heron toes, like those of the Snowy Egret above, my efforts to illustrate pectinate toes have been unsuccessful.
My friend Tami V. is the Communications Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.  She and her colleagues recently released Great Blue Heron chicks rescued from a colony destroyed by last May's tornado, which damaged many parts of north Minneapolis. I asked Tami to take photos for me.  The bird above is a Green Heron, a close up of its pectinate toe is below. I believe this structure is even more fully developed on adults.
Tami went a step further and photographed the pectinate toe on one of their other patients, a Common Nighthawk. Aside from other nightjars, as far as I know, the only other birds with such toes are Barn Owls. I do not know why more birds possess pectinate toes.

I appreciate the assistance of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota and Tami's enthusiasm for pursuing my request for photographs. Both Tami and the Center are busy without odd requests from ornithologist bloggers.


  1. Wonderful to be able to see what a pectinated toe looks like. Thank you!

  2. love the pic of the heron chick. here's a great pic of a pectinate toe of another night hawk. unfortunately her fate was doomed, but she did not die for nothing as you'll see after you read the blog: