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Do birds’ knees bend forwards or backwards?

One glance at a bird would convince most people that its knees bend the opposite way to ours. But do they really? And in fact, is it even correct to call those things knees?

Masked Lapwing

Forwards or backwards? Bird anatomy can be deceptive. This bird, by the way, is a Masked Lapwing.

Here’s a shock for some people: birds’ knees bend the same way as human knees. The reason why it’s confusing is because we don’t see their knees. Instead, that joint in a bird’s leg which kind of looks like a knee (except it bends forwards) would more accurately be represented by our human ankles.

Have a look at the photo of the Masked Lapwing above and you’ll see how easy it is to be tricked. But when you look at how a bird’s skeleton works (in the picture below) you’ll see right away that the knees bend backwards the same way as our human knees do.

A comparison of human knees with bird knees

So there you have it. Aren’t you glad you know! Now you can get into a bunch of arguments with people about bird knees.


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