I'm creating a fairly whimsical kid's fantasy world, so I don't need 100% accuracy- however, one of the major themes is respect for the environment (and spec evolution is a big interest of mine) so I like to make sure the creatures seem like they could potentially exist & have a natural history in an interconnected ecosystem, even if they're much sillier than actual hard sci-fi spec evo would be. Think, like, more grounded than moomins or pokemon but less grounded than any sci fi or fantasy media for adults.

In this world, there was a sudden, catastrophic, worldwide flood that wiped out most fully terrestrial and freshwater life. Many birds survived the initial flood because they could fly, but a lot of their old niches weren't viable anymore so the ones that wanted to survive longer had to adapt. Parrots, in the absence of fruits, nuts and seeds that their beaks evolved for, started foraging at newly-formed coastlines for small shellfish and invertebrates, eventually growing larger and becoming semi-aquatic flightless predators, somewhat like penguins.

My question is: parrot feet are heavily specialized for grasping branches. Many birds have three toes pointing forwards and one backwards. Parrots instead have two forward toes and two backward toes.

enter image description here

I know evolution finds it 'easier' to adapt already existing structures into new ones, rather than like, go back to a non-specialized foot and then re-adapt into a differently specialized foot. How might a a parrot's foot as-is change to suit an aquatic/semi-aquatic lifestyle, and how might that effect its underwater locomotion?

thank you!!

  • $\begingroup$ I changed the question to remove specialised technical jargon and included a description of what the feet look like. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Nov 26, 2021 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ either webbed for wading, or longer for walking. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2021 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ If they are flightless why not just use the wings like penguins do. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 28, 2021 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


I'm not even sure their feet would have to change much. Add some webbed toes (like flippers) and you should be good. Propulsion can be provided by wings. I would assume the parrots' feathers would need to become more waterproof. Finally, their bones would need to be heavier so they can dive more easily.

And there you have it: it's a duck that looks like a parrot.


They hold thick leaves to use as flippers.

parrot with stick source

These are tool using parrots. Their feet are parrot feet. The evolutionary bottleneck selected for the most creative, adaptable parrots. They use tools to forage and hunt on the beach, digging for clams and then smashing the shells. They pick up big durable leaves and held them in their claws to improve surface area and swim better.

You could start with kakapos which are already flightless. Maybe some figure out how to use tools to fly.

Maybe there is a beachside parrot civilization!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ haha!! this is a really cute idea- I'm not sure if there will be plants with strong enough leaves for that to work, but maybe discarded clamshells would work as pseudo-paddles instead? $\endgroup$
    – cozymouse
    Oct 20, 2021 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ @cozymouse in tropical regions there are plants with leaves so though, they were used as ornaments and even part of clothing by native south americans. Also some lily pads from the Amazon basin can hold the weight of a baby or a cat upon them without sinking and they are pretty resistant to tearing. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2021 at 16:29

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