Why walk?

I’m watching a Canada Goose, fat from a summer of lounging around corporate campuses and shopping mall parking lots (the goose, not me).

It’s walking slowly in front of my car. I brake, and wait for the goose to cross the road. He’s taking his time. Left, right, left, right. And I think: hell, if I could fly, you wouldn’t see me walking.

Ground-bound humans have always wanted to fly. Didn’t you have childhood misadventures with a cape and garage roof?

Then it hits me: birds walk like we do, on two legs. What other animal walks on two legs? I couldn’t come up with any. Okay, kangaroos, sometimes, but their tails are really third legs. Apes are built a lot like us, but don’t walk erect.

Dinosaurs such as T-Rex walked upright. But they evolved into birds. So we’re back where we started. Birds and humans are the only animals that stand and walk on two legs. A pretty major thing to have in common.

If space aliens studied the weird forms of life on Earth, they’d lump birds and humans together taxonomically. Why not? All they’d see is that we walk on two legs, and so do birds.

But birds can fly. That’s okay, we have planes. We’re still the only two bi-peds on the planet.

It takes balance to walk on two legs. Whether you’re a goose crossing the street, a little kid learning to walk or the last guy leaving a bar.

Most other animals have the sensible quadrapedal format for their bodies. They’re built like a table. Two legs in front, two in back. Solid. Think of a horse, an elephant; they’re naturally balanced. In a circus act they can stand on two legs for a moment, but that’s a bizarre trick.

I see Robins walking on my lawn. Sparrows on sidewalks. Pigeons waddling. Herons standing in the water. All birds, when not flying, are using just two legs. Like we do.

This is what ran through my mind while the goose took his time walking across the street. Walking. Why would he do that? Think I’ll give him a honk. Hey, that’s talking his language.

2 Responses to “Why walk?”

  1. Bird Feeders says:

    You bring up a really good point I had never explicitly thought about. Birds really are the only other animals I can think of that share our obligate bipedal mode of locomotion. Too bad we don’t share their capacity for flight. (My misadventures in flight involved two wings fabricated from packing styrofoam, however).

  2. Richard F. says:

    reminds me of a book we had to read in school…”animal farm”…in it the animals had a rule that said something like two-legs equals bad, four legs equals good, and also two legs with wings were good.