7 Large Birds with Long Legs

Large birds with long legs are the best reminder that most modern birds have evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods.

Their sizable body, large wingspan, long necks and long legs certainly give these birds a prehistoric vibe.

Crane, flamingos, herons and spoonbills share several similarities that go beyond their large bodies and long legs. These birds will often enjoy the same diet and live in similar habitats.

Here are my 7 picks of large birds with long legs that you might spot near rivers, ponds, or marshes.


As the tallest flying bird in Central and South America, the Jabiru will often find its way to the United States, especially in Texas, but also as far north as Mississippi.

Adult Jabirus reach a length of 120–140 cm (47–55 in) and a weight of 4.3–9 kg (9.5–19.8 lb). The wingspan is 2.3–2.8 m (7.5–9.2 ft).

The legs and wings aren’t the only large thing about the Jabiru. The bird’s black beak is also long, measuring 25–35 cm (9.8–13.8 in). It’s also wide and slightly upturned and pointy at the end.

Except for the head and neck, the plumage of the Jabiru is white. The head is black, while the neck features a bright red stretchable pouch. This red pouch and the head are not covered by feathers.

The bird lives in large groups near ponds and rivers. It feeds by wading in shallow water, consuming copious amounts of fish, frogs, snails, snakes, insects and other invertebrates.

They’re solitary nesters, building massive nest platforms that they reuse year after year. They build the nest out of sticks, usually in a tall tree. The size of the clutch is 2-5 eggs and both parents take turns incubating them.

Whooping Crane

An endangered species of large bird with long legs, the Whooping Crane is the tallest North American bird. It’s also one of the two crane species native to North America.

Whooping cranes have a height of 1.24 to 1.6 m (4 ft 1 in to 5 ft 3 in), a wingspan of 2 to 2.3 m (6 ft 7 in to 7 ft 7 in), and a weight of 6.2 kg (14 lb) on average for females and 7.3 kg (16 lb) on average for males.

Their plumage is white with a red cap on the head and black at the space between the bill and the eyes. The bill is also dark colored and pointed.

Because their calls are very loud, they carry long distances. They use calls to warn their partners of potential dangers.

These birds nest on the ground in a raised area in a marsh. They lay eggs in late April until mid-May. While they lay more than one egg, and potentially they can all hatch, even if they do, usually only one young bird survives per season.

Great Egret

Found in many wetlands of North America and with several subspecies widely distributed in South America, Asia, southern Europe and Africa, the Great Egret is a large bird with long legs and sleek features.

It has a long, s-shaped neck and a yellow, dagger-like bill. Its plumage is all white, except for a green mark on the section between the eyes and the bill.

The Great Egret can measure 80 to 104 cm (31 to 41 in) in length and range from 700 to 1,500 g (1.5 to 3.3 lb) in weight. The wingspan is 131 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in).

Unlike other large-bodied, long-necked birds that fly with their necks extended, the Great egret flies with its neck retracted.

The bird forages in shallow water, searching for fish, frogs, mice, snakes, crustaceans, and insects like grasshoppers and crickets.

Because it has a dagger-like bill, it’s very useful for impaling its prey. The great egret stalks its prey, waiting motionless for it to get close enough, then strikes down upon it like a spear.

They build stick nests up in the trees, usually choosing areas sheltered by mammalian predators.

Sandhill Crane

With chicks that are cute as a button, the Sandhill crane grows to be a large and elegant bird, whose long legs and sizable body qualifies it as one of the 7 large birds I’ve picked for this article.

Sandhill cranes can be found in the wetlands, prairies, and marshes of North America. They gather in large groups and they’re easy to spot because of their preference for relatively open habitats.

These birds measure around 47.2 in (120 cm) in length, 119.9-172.8 oz (3400-4900 g) in weight, and have a wingspan of 78.7 in (200 cm).

Their plumage is slate gray with a rusty wash on the upperparts. They have white cheeks and a red part on the forehead that is not covered with feathers.

These birds are also known after their dancing skills, showcasing a host of elegant and energetic moves during the courting process.

Sandhill Cranes feed on land or shallow marshes, feeding on seeds, grains, tubers, small invertebrates and vertebrates.

They nest in isolated wetlands, building mounds from the available plant matter. The size of the clutch is 1-3 eggs.

Greater Flamingo

As one of the most widespread flamingo species in the world, the Greater Flamingo is also the largest of the six flamingo species.

This large bird with long legs can be found in Africa, southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

The average height of this flamingo species is 110–150 cm (43–59 in), while its average weight is 2–4 kg (4.4–8.8 lb).

The legs of the flamingo are pink, its neck is S-shaped, and the bill is pink with a black tip, and it has a downward curve.

The plumage is pinkish white except for the wing coverts, which are red and the secondary and primary flight feathers, which are black.

Habitats that are preferred by the Greater flamingo include mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons. Flamingos feed by stirring the mud with their feet, then sucking the water through their bill, trapping algae, plant matter, small shrimp, mollusks, and other microorganisms.

Flamingos build mounds that they use as a nesting site, laying only a single egg. If anything happens to the egg, the whole breeding season is compromised, since the egg is not replaced.

Royal Spoonbill

The name of this large bird with long legs is no accident – the bird does indeed have a spoon-shaped bill that’s pitch black. The legs are also black. The rest of the bird is white.

This large bird is a native to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It can be found in intertidal flats and shallows of fresh and saltwater wetlands.

The Royal Spoonbill measures around 80 cm (31 in) in height and weighs 1.4-2.07 kg (3.1-4.6 lb).

It uses its long legs to wade through water, feeding on fish, shellfish, crabs, and amphibians. The bill of the Royal Spoonbill works a lot like a pair of tongs, being useful in trapping food inside.

During the breeding season, white plumes can be observed growing from the back of the Royal Spoonbill’s head as well as colored patches on their face.

The nest is built from sticks and it’s placed on a tree. The female lays 2-3 eggs. Because even minor upsets can determine entire colonies to abandon the eggs, it can lead to breeding failures.

Purple Heron

With a standing height of 70 to 94 cm (28 to 37 in) and a wingspan of 120–152 cm (47–60 in), the Purple heron is the last bird on my list of large birds with long legs.

They have reddish-brown plumage, the forehead and the crown of the head are black, the neck is S-shaped, while the beak is long, and dagger-like.

The bird can be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and enjoys marshes, lakes, lagoons, preferably ones surrounded by thick vegetation. Riverbanks, canals, mudflats, and ditches are also visited by the Purple Heron.

It especially enjoys locations with reed beds, rather than staying in open locations. The Purple heron is much more secretive than the Gray heron, which will hang out in open locations as well.

Unlike storks, cranes, and spoonbills that fly with their necks extended, the Purple heron flies with its neck retracted. Its flight is also slow.

The nesting site is chosen close to lakes and wetlands. Purple herons usually nest in reed beds, canebrakes or low bushes.

They lay 4-5 eggs on average, but they can lay as many as 8. Both parents help with the incubation and the care of the young.


The long legs of these birds help them wade through the shallow waters of their habitats, searching for food. Sometimes, these birds use their legs to stir the water with their feet.

These large birds will often have long beaks that help them trap food or impale their prey. Some of them are expert flyers, covering long distances, others fly at a slow pace.

They mostly feed on aquatic animals and plant matter, with some feeding on grains and seeds as well.

Leave a Comment