75 Interesting Facts About Birds

  1. Feathers, laying of eggs, and toothless beaked jaws are the main features that distinguish birds from other vertebrate animals.
  2. There are more than 10,000 known species of birds. (Source)  
  3. More than half of all bird species belong to the order Passerine (house sparrow is one among them). There are around 5,700 species of passerine. (Source)
  4. Birds have unique features in their eyes that enable them to see UV (ultraviolet) light. (Source)
  5. Common swifts remain in the air continuously for ten months without touching the ground. During their migration from Europe to Africa (and then back to Europe), these birds eat, mate, and collect nest material in the air. During this process, swifts can land on houses or branches but not on the land. They do not rest at night for a longer duration. It suggests that they can sleep in the air as well. (Source)
  6. Birds are the main predators of snakes. Owls, falcons, hawks, and herons are famous snake-eating birds. (Source)
  7. Ostrich, Cassowary, and Emu are the largest bird species by weight and length. All of them are flightless birds.
  8. Ostrich is also the fastest-running bird that can reach a speed of 45 mph.
  9. It is a common assumption that birds have a poor sense of smell. But it has been proved that this is not true for all bird species. Studies show that kiwis and a few other bird species have an excellent and well-developed sense of smell. (Source)
  10. Another misconception about birds is their absence of a sense of taste. Experiments have proved taste sense in several birds, including ducks, hummingbirds, and sandpipers. (Source)
  11. Hummingbirds are unique as they are the smallest birds (bee hummingbird), have the ability of fastest wing-beat (ruby-throated hummingbird) among all bird species, and are the only birds that can fly backward. (Source) (Source)
  12. The male white bellbird is the world’s loudest bird. It sings at 125 decibels (dB) during the breeding season, even if the female is in proximity. (Source)
  13. Pigeons, doves, flamingoes, and emperor penguins feed their newborn babies with a semisolid excretion known as crop milk or bird milk. This whitish to yellowish milk contains fats, protein, antibodies, and other nutritious substances. Unlike mammalian milk, it is not a product of mammary glands and does not contain calcium and carbohydrates. (Source) 
  14. Birds are present on all continents, including Antarctica.
  15. Birds have a single excretory system to expel urine and feces as a semisolid waste. But ostriches are unique among birds as they have separate systems for urination and defecation. (Source
  16. Arctic tern covers the longest distance for migration among birds. This Arctic bird travels 44,000 miles in a year. Sooty shearwater and pectoral sandpipers also migrate to longer distances than most other animals. (Source
    An Arctic tern sitting on a rock
    Arctic tern covers the longest distance during its migration

  17. Grebe, a North American waterbird, is the largest vertebrate that can walk on water. These birds can defy gravity with up to 20 forceful steps per second with splayed feet on the water’s surface. (Source)
  18. The largest flying bird is Kori Bustard. The average length of this bird in Africa is 150 cm (5 ft). 
  19. Vultures are the most famous among carrion-eaters. These birds can eat and digest rotten flesh thanks to numerous bacteria on their face and inside the intestine that digest their prey. Apart from that, they have an extremely strong gut area with strong acids that can destroy harmful bacteria in the flesh they eat. (Source)
  20. Andean Condor (a vulture native to Andes Mountains in South America) is the largest flying bird with a combination of weight and wingspan. 
  21. Several birds like to eat fish. These include herons, kingfishers, ospreys, penguins, eagles, pelicans, and many others. Sharks, catfish, tigerfish, and monkfish eat birds. (Source) 
  22. Hundreds of bird species take dust baths. The purpose of this technique is to remove excess oil from feathers, along with minimizing mites, lice, and other parasites. (Source)
  23. Red-billed Quelea is known as the most abundant wild bird in the world. According to an estimate, the number of these birds in Sub-Saharan Africa is 1.5 billion. (Source
  24. Sword-billed hummingbirds have the longest beaks per body size among birds. It is the only bird with a beak longer than its body size. 
  25. Every year, insectivore birds eat between 400 and 500 million tons of arthropods (harmful insects that eat food crops and spread disease). They provide this benefit in all habitats (forests, grasslands, croplands, deserts, tundra, and savannas). Around 70% of these harmful insects (over 300 million tons) are consumed by forest birds. (Source)
  26. Many small birds are beneficial for plants and crops as they are insectivores and eat those insects that are harmful to crops. Examples include bluebirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, wrens, etc. (Source)
  27. Birds need less water than mammals due to the absence of sweat glands. Many insectivorous birds fulfill their water requirement through the food they eat. (Source)
  28. The snow petrel is the most southerly bird in the world. This bird nests up to 240 km (150 miles) inland in Antarctica. (Source)
  29. Black kites, whistling kites, and brown falcons are known as “firehawks” in Australia. These birds play a major role in spreading forest fires by carrying burning sticks to new locations. It assists them in finding prey (insects and small animals) that escape from burning forests and savannahs. Aboriginal Australians claim that these birds of prey have been causing this destruction for more than 40,000 years. (Source)
  30. In 1958, China initiated a campaign to eradicate four pests, including sparrows. They were considered harmful to crops due to their consumption of grain seeds and fruits. As a result, most sparrows and other plant-eating birds vanished from China. But it increased the population of crop-eating insects that were the food of these sparrows. It resulted in the catastrophic Great Chinese Famine (1959-61) that took the lives of around 30 million people. (Source)
  31. Sarus crane birds are the world’s tallest flying birds. This bird can stand 2 m (6 ft 6 in) high. (Source)
  32. Kiwis lay the largest eggs compared to their body size among all the bird species. It is 25% of its body weight. A kiwi also lays up to 100 eggs in a year. (Source
    Kiwi bird
    Kiwi lays largest egg per body size among animals

  33. The wandering albatross has the longest wingspan for any flying bird. The longest recorded wingspan is 11 ft 10 in (3.63 m). An extinct bird had the longest wingspan ever that measured 24 ft 2 in (7.38 m). (Source)
  34. The Kelp gull is a small bird in the southern hemisphere. It is a dangerous and fearless bird that attacks and kills several large marine mammals (seal pups and baby whales) for food. (Source)
  35. Swans are distinguishable from other waterfowls through their number of neck bones. Compared to ducks (16) and geese (17-23), swans have 24 or more neck bones. It is also the highest number of neck bones in any bird. (Source)
  36. Both Allies and Axis used pigeons to transport messages during World War 2. In the later stages of the war, Britain developed and trained peregrine falcons to capture pigeons used by Nazi Germany. (Source)
  37. An Asian goose, the bar-headed goose, is the world’s highest-flying bird that can attain a height of 21,120 ft during its migration. These birds can fly over the Himalayas in eight hours. (Source)
  38. Wandering albatrosses can travel 10,000 miles in a single journey while barely flapping their wings. These birds apply the “dynamic soaring” technique to accomplish this feat. (Source)
  39. It is usually considered that birds are descendants of dinosaurs. It is the reason that they are sometimes called living dinosaurs. (Source)
  40. The fastest flying bird is the Peregrine Falcon, which can reach a flying speed of 242 mph. Comparatively, Golden Eagle is the 2nd fastest flying bird, with a maximum flying speed of 200 mph.
  41. But if the fastest speed during level flight is measured, then the fastest bird is the common swift. This tiny bird can reach a speed of 111.6 km/h (69.3 mph) while flying horizontally and upwards. (Source
  42. Few birds, like Blue-capped Ifrit, Little Shrikethrush, hooded Pitohuis, Spur-winged Goose, etc. are poisonous due to their consumption of toxic plants or insects.
  43. Owls can turn their heads at 270-degree angles in either direction. Their body structure allows them to do so without damaging blood vessels and the brain. (Source
  44. The Araucana chicken of Chile lays blue-shelled eggs.
  45. A chicken (named Miracle Mike) remained alive for 18 months without a head. (Source
  46. The chicken was the first domesticated bird. Humans initially domesticated chickens 10,000 years ago. (Source)
  47. Mockingbirds can mimic the sounds of several other birds, amphibians, and insectsThey can learn hundreds of songs and are one of the few birds that can learn new songs throughout adulthood. (Source)
  48. The Bar-tailed Godwits can cover a 10,200 km distance without taking a rest during their migration. 
    Migration Routes of Bar-tailed Godwits
    Bar-tailed Godwits migrate without rest

  49. Eagles have the sharpest vision among all birds and can spot a rabbit about 2 miles away. Owls have the sharpest vision at night. (Source)
  50. Ile aux Cochons, an island between Antarctica and Africa, is the world’s largest colony of king penguins. But in the last three decades, the population of king penguins on this remote island has fallen by 90% (from over 2 million to around 200,000). Climate change, overcrowding, and avian cholera are considered possible reasons for this sharp decline. (Source)
  51. Crows are extremely intelligent, and their cognitive abilities are comparable to that of chimpanzees and gorillas. Urban crows use road traffic for cracking hard nuts. They also know to use red lights to collect their fruit. (Source)
  52. Jackdaw, a bird in the crow family, is the only bird species and the only animal except for primates that know the art of communicating with eyes. (Source)
  53. Ravens are also ultra-smart, like their cousins' crows and jackdaws. They can easily understand the use of any tool and remember the process for a long time. They are even better than monkeys in this regard. (Source)
  54. Hamerkop, an African bird, builds so large nests that a human can easily sit inside these nests. These birds also decorate their nests. Every year, each pair constructs three to four nests. (Source)
  55. Birds are the best examples of animals that change color according to their diet. Well-known birds that change their exteriors with their diet include flamingoes, northern cardinals, yellow goldfinches, and canaries. (Source)
  56. Gray partridge lays the most number of eggs among all bird species. It can lay up to 22 eggs at a time. 
  57. A sociable Weaver, a small bird in Africa, builds a huge nest that can easily accommodate 500 birds. Several families of this bird build this nest. These nests also provide shelter to other birds and animals. (Source)
  58. Oxpecker (also known as tickbird) helps remove ticks, maggots, and flies from the bodies of various animals. These birds eat these pests but also take blood from the sores of host animals in this process. (Source) 
  59. A species of Indonesian parrot has been found to solve complex mechanical problems. These parrots (cockatoos) were able to undo a series of locks one after another without any training. (Source)
  60. In a volume-focused test, African gray parrots have been proven more intelligent than a 4-year-old human. (Source
  61. Pigeons are highly intelligent birds. They have a sharp memory, can recognize words, and distinguish between benign and malignant cancers. (Source)
  62. Pigeons can find their way home from 1,100 miles away. The latest reach shows that low-frequency infrasound plays a major role in pigeons’ strong navigational ability. (Source)
  63. Despite having smaller brains, the Great tit birds have the same amount of self-control present in highly-intelligent animals like ravens and chimpanzees. (Source
    Great tit bird on human hand
    Great tits have high self control despite having small brains
     
  64. Birds are usually attracted to bright colors, while various birds can have different favorite colors. (Source)
  65. Several birds camouflage to avoid predators. This strategy is most evident in nocturnal birds, ground foragers, nesting females, and juveniles. These birds use their color, posture, and body markings to match their surroundings. (Source)
  66. Male sandgrouse carries water to nest in their feathers. A sandgrouse can take two tablespoons of water in this unique way to satisfy the thirst of its chicks. (Source)
  67. During the breeding season, male rhea bird mates with multiple females. They build huge nests, and all females lay their eggs in the same nest. The male rhea sits on these eggs and takes care of the babies for six months after the eggs hatch. (Source)
  68. Male emus also play a vital role in the hatching of eggs. These birds sit on their eggs once laid by females. Male emus perform the duty without eating or drinking. This period lasts for around two months. (Source)
  69. Out of more than 10,000 species, the males of only around 3% of birds (ducks, geese, ostriches, etc.) have a penis. (Source)
  70. The Argentine lake duck has the longest penis among birds. The length of this male organ is 42.5 cm which is as long as the bird’s body. (Source)
  71. Australian military fought a war against emus in 1932 to prevent them from causing damage to wheat crops. The Emu War ended with failure for the military. (Source)      
  72. Oilbird is the world’s only nocturnal fruit-eating bird. They use echolocation to navigate in darkness. (Source)
  73. Few species of birds, like hummingbirds, nightjars, and doves, undergo a hibernation-like state known as torpor. During this state, the birds slow down their body functions (heart rate, temperature, and breathing) to preserve heat and energy. It usually happens during cold winter nights. For some birds, this process can continue for weeks. (Source)
  74. Scientists have collected genomes of 367 species of birds that represent 92% of global avian families. (Source)
  75. Many birds sleep with one eye open and the activity of half part of the brain, known as “peeking.” The purpose of this sleep is to avoid danger while sleeping. A study has proved that these birds can sleep more peacefully in the absence of any interference. (Source)

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