Birds have always been an object of fascination for a lot of people. Perhaps it’s because their ability to fly is something that we’ve always desired but unfortunately will never have. However, their mastery of flight is just one of the many things that make them such fascinating creatures. With 18,000 bird species discovered so far, we’ve learned some extraordinary and amazing things about them. Here are some awesome facts about some popular birds.
Photo by Pixabay
- They might not be able to fly in the air, but they do fly in the water. When penguins swim, the motion of their flippers resembles the wing movements of flying birds. The only difference is that they are flying in a denser medium which is water.
- Also unlike other birds, penguins have bones that are not hollow. Since they don’t need to take off anyway, being light is not necessary for them. On the contrary, having solid bones allows them to stay underwater (like a diver’s weight belt).
- Their feathers form a double-layer barrier that (1) keeps them waterproof and sleek to remain hydrodynamically shaped in the water and (2) keeps them insulated from the frigid waters they swim in.
- They can swim fast, as much as 5 times faster than any Olympic swimmer. They can move underwater at speeds great enough to even launch themselves out of the water. Watch this to see how they can go.
- Mumble, the tap-dancing hero of the Warner Bros. movie, Happy Feet, is an Emperor penguin (the tallest and heaviest species of penguin).
Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin
- They are the only birds that can fly backward. Hummingbirds can move backward, forwards, upside-down, or just hover in a spot. See how they fly in slow motion here.
- They can flap their wings by as much as 70 times per second. This high-frequency flapping produces the characteristic humming sound that birds are known for.
- These birds have an extraordinarily high metabolism that allows their high-frequency flapping. Their hearts beat 1200 times per minute (human hearts only beat at 60 bpm) to supply their flight muscles with enough energy. As a consequence though, they need to feed frequently, drinking half of their body weight in nectar daily.
- They rely on their excellent vision for finding food, usually targeting specific colors (red specifically) for identifying the flower and the presence of nectar.
- They have a great memory, remembering flower locations and even feeders that they’ve been to before. They use this to figure out flight paths to the next location.
Photo by NAUSHIL | SKYHAWK. ASIA
- These birds are famous for their elaborate colorful tails, known as trains. These tails can reach as long as 6 feet, and account for about 60% of the bird’s weight.
- Only the males of these birds grow these enormous, patterned trains to attract mates and they use it to attract mates. The females, on the other hand, are plain colored and lack colorful trains.
- Technically, only the males are referred to as peacocks. Females are called peahens.
- Despite their heavy trains, these birds can fly without much problem. However, because of the train’s weight, don’t expect them to fly very far.
Photo by Frans van Heerden
- They are the most popular members of the raptors or the birds of prey. This group is made up of large, carnivorous, high-flying birds with strong beaks, powerful talons, and impressive wingspans.
- These birds are monogamous and couples usually work well together in raising the family. Unfortunately, they only lay 1 – 3 eggs every season, so their population doesn’t increase by a lot.
- They have an insanely-sharp vision, being able to spot a tiny prey more than a kilometer away (even while in flight). This is due to the higher concentration of photoreceptors in their eyes, which is about 5 times denser than any human.
- Most eagles can swim. Watch this to see how an eagle swims.
- With an arsenal of deadly weapons at their disposal – powerful talons that stab and grab prey, massive tough beaks that can tear flesh, and incredible diving speeds reaching 160 km per hour, they are the apex predators of the sky.
Photo by Why Steve
- They are the tallest, heaviest, and fastest among the flightless birds. Just a single ostrich egg already weighs 1.5 kg. An adult can weigh as much as 150 kg and grow as tall as 9 feet in height.
- They can also run fast. At top speed, they can go as fast as 70 km/hr.
- They are the only birds that have 3 stomachs. These stomachs have slightly different functions and one of them performs the job of the missing gallbladder.
- They mostly eat plants, but they will not refuse to eat small critters like lizards, rodents, and mice. They rely a lot on plant materials for a lot of their dietary needs, including water.
- They bury their eggs in the ground, which is probably why they’ve often been mistaken for burying their heads.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fastest bird?
The title of the fastest bird varies depending on the type of movement you’re trying to compare. For example, the Peregrine Falcon is considered the fastest when it comes to a straight dive, reaching speeds of 389 km/hr. On a leveled flight though, that title goes to the small relative of the swift, the White-throated Needletail, which can fly at 169 km/hr. On land, however, the fastest bird is the Ostrich at 70 km/hr, while the fastest bird in the water is the Gentoo penguin, swimming at speeds of up to 35 km/hr.
Why do birds migrate?
Birds migrate or move to another location because of dwindling resources, oftentimes because of the changing of the seasons. For example, when winter comes, vegetation slows down and this causes a shortage in nesting spots and a decline in the insect population (a valuable food source for birds). To solve this problem, they fly to warmer regions where more plants, insects, and nesting grounds are easier to find. Then, when the seasons change again, they just fly back to where they came from.
Why do bird beaks come in different shapes and sizes?
Bird beaks have evolved to suit the specific type of food that they eat. For example, finches and grosbeaks feed on seeds and nuts. To help them gather and break these nuts, their beaks are cone-shaped and strong. Woodpecker beaks, on the other hand, are very tough and are perfectly suited for pecking holes in trees. The strong hooked beaks of raptors are great for tearing flesh apart.