Free images - Fun Facts All About Birds
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What is a bird? How is it different from other animals? In short, although sharing many characteristics with other animals, only birds have feathers! Birds are a scientific class of vertebrates known as the "Aves".
Let's examine some bird characteristics -
Feathers - All birds have
feathers - in fact, birds are the only animals that do! Feathers
serve many purposes - they are used for flight, display, camouflage and
temperature control. Soft down keeps birds warm, wing feathers allow
flight and tail feathers are used for steering. Feathers are made of
the same substance as human fingernails - keratin. Feathers also
provide a windproof and waterproof covering. Feathers
with dull colours such as brown,
green or grey provides camoflage and help birds to hide themselves from
prey. Quite often the female of the species are a duller colour than
the male. This helps to hide the mother bird while she sits of her
- Warm-blooded - Birds are warm-blooded animals.
- Size - Birds come in various sizes. The smallest bird is the tiny Hummingbird while the largest is an Ostrich that can grow up to nine feet tall!
- Eggs - Birds lay eggs - usually in a nest - and are incubated by the parents.
- Skeleton - Most birds have hollow bones with air inside them. This makes them lightweight for flight.
- Feet - Birds are "bipedal" which means that they have two legs. This means that they can stand, walk and run. Their feet are often covered with scales.
- Beaks - Birds have a hard beak or bill with no teeth.
- Species - There are more than 9,000 different species of birds.
- Habitat - Birds live on every continent of the world in cold and hot climates.
- Activity - Some birds are "diurnal" which means that is is lively during the daylight hours, while some are "nocturnal", meaning that it is active during the hours of darkness.
- Eating behaviours - Most birds are omnivorous - meaning that they eat nearly anything they can find. Some birds are carnivorous and eat meat - flesh, insects, fish, etc. Some live on seeds and fruit. Some birds, like the Hummingbird, live on nectar and honey. Compared with their weight, birds eat a lot of food since they use lots of energy.
- Wings - All bird species have wings, but some are flightless that use their wings for balance and not flight. Some birds glide and some, the hummingbird, can hover and fly backwards. There are some species that are completely flightless - Ostrich, Cassowary, Rhea, Kiwi, Dodo (now extinct) and Penguins. Penguins use their wings for swimming.
- Migration - Many species of bird migrate long distances every year. Migration is the regular seasonal movement birds make moving between their breeding areas and wintering habitats. Migration is mainly driven by the availability of food.
- Behaviour - Birds are social animals. The have been known to work together in breeding, flocking, hunting and mobbing predators.
What does a bird's characteristics tell you about its behaviour?
Long legs -
This bird probably spends a lot of its time walking in water. They probably have a long neck to match so that they can reach their food. Examples: Cranes and Flamingos.
Short legs + long necks - These birds are typically swimmers. They dive into the water and catch their prey under the water's surface. Examples: Pelicans, Geese, Swans.
slender beaks act like straws to suck nectar from flowers and pick insects
from plants. Long
thin beaks help birds poke holes into wood, the ground or find nectar in
Long curved beaks act like tongs or chop-sticks and help to find prey from deep water or in muddy ground. Example: Ibis.
Thick hooked beaks like pliers grasp branches and crack open hard seeds. Fruit eating birds often have very large beaks. The curved beaks of parrots, for example, enable them to crack nuts and eat large seeds. Example: Parrots
Thick cone-shaped beaks can crack open small grass seeds. Think of Finches.
Short Slim Beaks - Birds that peck at small seeds and eat food from the group have short beaks. They act as small tweezers to select small seeds and berries from amongst leaves or on the ground.Think of the pigeons in the park.
What can you learn by examining the feet of a Mute Swan?
Swans live near the water. They are wonderfully adapted to their environment. In addition to having waterproof feathers, widely spaced legs and air sacs, swans have wonderfully webbed feet. Like other birds, swans have four toes on each of their feet, but they also have webs of skin between their toes. When swimming, they use their feet as paddles.
- There are currently about 1,200 species of birds that are threatened with extinction. Most extinction is blamed on human activity.
- The chicken is the most common species of bird found in the world!