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.
If that’s not enough, have a close look at the photo below. It shows the bone structure revealed when a tiny newly-hatched bird lacks plumage. The arrow points to where the knee joint is and you’ll see that the knee bends the same way as it does with humans. That little guy fell out of its nest, by the way, and we were in the process of returning it to safety when I took that photo. You’ll be pleased to know it survived all that excitement and lived to maturity.
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.