When Is An Eel Really A Bird?

When it’s an avocet. One old country name for the avocet was “awl, “like a cobbler’s tool, because of its sharp, curved bill. The old English word for this was pronounced more like “eel.” Some birds have more than one name, depending on what people notice most about them. The lapwing, named for the way it flies, is also called “peewit” after its call, and “green plover” because that is what it looks like. In Portugal, where they migrate in winter, lapwings are called “birds of winter.

Why A Bald Eagle Is Called “Bald?”

Because it is piebald, or black and white-not because it doesn’t have any hair (or feathers)!


What Is A Thunderbird?

It depends where you are in the world. In ancient Zimbabwe, lightning birds were said to look rather like eagles-they were put up to keep storms away. In North America the Indians call the tiny ruby- throated hummingbird a thunderbird, because it makes miniature thunder noises with its wings as it flies. The Romans thought a woodpecker drumming on the sacred oak (the “thunder tree “I would bring rain, and this belief survived in Britain after the Romans had left.

Why Doesn’t One Swallow Max A Summer In The Uk?

Because although the first swallows usually arrive at the end of March and in early April, they come only in ones and twos: the main migration arrives at the end of April, when summer is really on its way. This saying is not really about birds at all: it means “one piece of good luck doesn’t mean that everything will be OK from now on.”


Which Is The Wisest Bird?

The Egyptian god of wisdom was often drawn with the head of a sacred ibis, while in ancient Greece the little owl was dedicated to Athene, the goddess of wisdom. To this day, the scientific name for the little owl is Athene.

Can We Forecast The Weather From Feeding Swifts?

Swifts catch insects on the wing, so when the insects are flying high, so do the swifts. Insects fly higher in windier weather, when rain is more likely: so high-feeding swifts may be a sign of rain. On the other hand, insects fly low in humid or thundery weather. Take your pick!


Why Do People Say That A Tumbling Rook Brings Rain?

It doesn’t, but the weather in Britain is so hard to predict that people will try anything! Rooks perform their tumbling display flights in fall, and it often rains in fall, so the flights are often followed by rain.

Can Birds Predict Thunder?

Country people say that if the dawn chorus is late there will be a storm. This makes sense. The dawn chorus starts at first light, and if heavy clouds make the morning dark, birds will start to sing late, or not at all.


How Many Toes Do Birds Have?

Two, three, or four. A typical perching bird has three pointing forward and one back; birds that run on hard ground have only three, all pointing forward. Ostriches have only two toes, shaped rather like the hoof of an antelope. Woodpeckers have two toes pointing forwards and two back; owls can turn their fourth toe either forward or backward, for perching on a branch, or to get a better grip on prey. Swifts have all four toes pointing forwards.

Why Do Birds’ Knees Bend Backward?

They don’t. What looks like the bird’s knee is in fact its ankle, and below it is an extended foot bone leading to the toes. Its real knee is usually hidden by feathers.


Do Birds Have Fingers?

Yes, three of them. The first, the thumb, supports a small but important part of the wing called the alula or bastard wing; the second and third support the main flight feathers.

What Is The Link Between Feathers And Dinosaurs?

Feathers are modified scales, made from a protein called beta- keratin, which is otherwise found only in lizard skin. Birds are descended from ancient lizards related to dinosaurs: the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, has many reptile-like features.


Which Bird Has The Longest Wings?

The wandering albatross has a wingspan-the distance from one wingtip to the other when the wings are stretched out-of more than 10 feet. The longest ever measured was a male with a wingspan of 11 feet; females are usually smaller.

Why Do Some Birds Have Hooked Beaks?

For catching and tearing their prey. Hawks, eagles and, vultures, but also owls and shrikes, need to be able to take a firm grip on struggling prey animals, and then pull them apart to eat them. The edges of an eagle’s beak act like a pair of scissors, to cut through skin and flesh. Gulls have a sharp hook at the tip of their bill to hold on to slippery fish or squid.

Why Don’t Birds Fall Off A Branch When They Go To Sleep?

Tendons from the tips of the toes pass behind the ankle joint. This joint is bent when the bird sits down, so the toes are automatically clenched round the twig it is standing on. No muscle power is involved in this grip, so the bird can sleep without danger of falling.

Which Birds Trot On Lilies?

Jacanas are sometimes called “lily-trotters.” they live on ponds and lakes, walking on lily pads to catch the insects that live on them. Their long toes spread their weight, so that the leaves don’t bend and sink.

Why Are Bird Bones Filled With Air?

The long bones of birds are like tubes, often with criss-crossing inside, to make them stronger for their weight. Not all birds have equally hollow bones: those that dive into water, like gannets, terns, and kingfishers, and those that fly very fast, like swifts and some waders, have less air in their long bones.

Which Birds Treat Their Nests With Pesticide?

European starlings do. Before the female begins nesting in a hole in a tree, the male bird gathers pieces of green vegetation and puts them into the hole. Scientists have discovered that the male chooses plants that give off certain chemicals which kill parasites, such as bird lice. This helps to keep the nest -and the baby birds that are born in it-free from lice.

What Birds Lay Their Eggs In A Compost Heap?

Mound birds in Australia and New Guinea dig large holes in the sandy ground, and lay their eggs on a pile of rotting vegetation they have collected in the bottom. The compost warms the eggs from below, and the sun warms them from above. The parents remove or add sand to keep the temperature constant. After all this work, when the chicks hatch the parents aren’t at all interested!

How Do Birds Learn To Build Nests?

They know instinctively what to do and what materials to use, but older birds build better nests than beginners. This suggests that they get better with practice, and also that they know where to find the best materials.

Which Bird Lays The World’s Smallest Egg?

The smallest is that of the bee hummingbird, which is under ½ x 1/3 inch, and weighs barely anything at all. The egg of the emperor penguin weighs just over one percent of the weight of the female.

Which Bird Lays A Whopper?

The biggest egg is laid by the ostrich: it measures 7×5 inches and weighs 3 lb. The biggest egg for the size of the mother is laid by the kiwi, whose eggs, 5 inches long, can weigh as much as 1 lb, a third of the weight of the bird.

Which Birds Dig Holes To Nest In?

Many birds dig holes for their nests, including kingfishers and I sand martins in sandy banks, and woodpeckers in trees. Puffins clean out disused rabbit burrows, the quetzal in Central America scoops out a large hole in a rotting tree trunk.

Which Birds Make The Biggest Nests?

Eagles. A bald eagle nest in Ohio, USA, which was used for 35 years, was more than 8 feet across and 12 feet deep, weighing 2 tons. Another in Florida was even bigger: nearly 10 feet wide and more than 20 feet deep.

Which Birds Can Tie Knots?

Many of the African weaver finches start their spherical hanging nests by tying blades of grass to a twig with neat, strong knots.

When Does A Nest Have A Roof?

Many small birds, especially in the tropics, build domed nests, with a roof to protect them from rain and sun. The roof might be made of almost anything, from strands of grass in weaver nests to bits of plant tied together with spiders’ webs in the nests of sunbirds. In Europe, swallows and long-tailed or penduline tits are the best-known domed nest builders.

Which Chicks Can’t Wait To

Lapwings are a good example of nidifugous (nest- leaving) chicks: they leave the nest as soon as they can all walk, within hours of hatching. Nidicolous (nest-living) chicks stay much longer, in the case of macaws (large parrots) for as long as three months.

How Does A Hungry Chick Get Fed First?

A parent feeds the chick that is asking loudest for food. This usually turns out fairly, because chicks that were fed last time the parent came to the nest are quieter than hungry ones. Black storks just put a pile of fish in the middle of the nest and let the chicks take what they want.

When Are Baby Birds Bigger Than Their Parents?

Shearwater chicks have to be able to survive while their parents fly far out to sea to find food, sometimes for as long as 10 days. They can store fat after a meal to keep them going until the next meal. At the peak of their growth, after about 80 days, they can weigh 12 oz, twice as much as their parents. They are not fed for their last 10 days on the nest, so that they lose enough weight to be able to fly.

Which Birds Don’t Look After Their Chicks?

Mound-building birds like the mallee fowl. They leave their eggs to hatch in a mound of sand, from which the chicks eventually scramble out. If the parents see the chicks, they do not even recognize them.

Why Is It A Good Idea To Hatch First?

A partridge might take three weeks to lay 15 eggs, only incubating them when the last is laid, so that they all hatch together. Owls, eagles, herons, and gulls on the other hand, incubate their eggs as soon as the first one is laid, so that the chicks hatch at different times. If food is short, the last chicks to hatch will die.

What Is An Egg-Tooth?

The hardened tip of the chick’s beak is called an egg-tooth. It is used to break the first hole in the eggshell just before it hatches.

What Is Pigeon Milk?

This is a fluid rich in protein produced by cells lining the crop of male and female pigeons, used to feed the chicks. Flamingos feed their chicks in the same way: so do emperor penguins, but only the males produce the milk.

Do Chicks Eat The Same As Their Parents?

Some do, like chicks of seabirds, which eat fish. But chicks of seed-eating birds usually start life eating insects, because they need the special fats and protein that seeds can’t provide. Cuckoo chicks eat whatever their foster- brothers and sisters eat, only much more of it.

Why Do Birds Show Off?

For much the same reasons as they sing, but with more emphasis on finding and keeping a mate. Males may display (the technical term for showing off) and even fight while the females watch. Ruffs and capercaillie perform a mass display called a lek. Afterwards, the females choose the most successful males to breed with. The most elaborate displays are seen among birds of paradise and peacocks.

When Is Preening Just For Show?

All birds have to preen themselves, but some species of duck go through the motions in a special way as part of their display. The bill never actually touches the feathers, but the bird raises its wing to show off the bright patch of color that is the badge of its species.

When Does A Frigate Bird BlowUp?

Male frigates have a huge red throat-pouch which they inflate to attract females, making a wavering, fluting call as they do so.

Which Bird Raises A False Alarm?

There can be more to alarm calls than just warning other birds of danger. In the Amazon, when several different species are feeding together in a flock, the white-winged shrike tanager gives an alarm call when it sees another bird find a tasty insect. All the birds fly away in fright-except the crafty tanager, which dashes in and grabs the prey.

Why Do Birds Sing Other Birds’ Songs?

Indian hill mynas are well known for imitating human voices, though they rarely mimic other birds in the wild. But marsh warblers include quotations from hundreds of other species in their song, from both Europe and Africa. This may be because males with more complex songs win more mates. Male mocking birds in America copy the song of another species when it approaches their territory, possibly to drive it away.

Why Do Birds Sing?

Birds do not sing because they are happy! The two main reasons are to attract a mate and to defend a territory. Birds recognize the song of their own species: females are attracted to a male with a powerful and complex song, and other males are driven away from his territory.

Do Birds Have Singing Lessons?

Yes. In a famous experiment with chaffinches, scientists found that young males cannot develop the full song of the species without hearing adult males (or at least recordings of them) singing nearby and copying them.

Why Do Birds Preen Each Other?

Mutual preening helps to remove parasites such as ticks from places that a bird cannot reach for itself round its head and neck. Since the only birds that do this are the two members of a breeding pair, it is usually seen as part of the “bonding” process that keeps them together.

Why Do Geese Fly In A V?

When a bird is flying, the air just behind its wingtips swirls upward. If another bird flies in this turbulent, rising air, it can save about 15% of the energy it would have to use if it were flying alone. In a V-formation, the leader is the only bird not saving energy: other birds take its place from time to time, to share the burden of leadership. Swans and cranes are among other birds that use this technique.

What Is The Slowest Bird In The World?

Surprisingly, swifts are among the slowest-flying birds, moving at less than 12 mph while they are feeding. Their insect prey moves only slowly, so they must move slowly to gather it. They fly faster than this at other times, as they wheel and swoop close to buildings and people. Another answer to this question could be hummingbirds, because when they hover they move at 0 mph! Even better, they are the only birds that can fly backward under power, registering a negative speed!

What Keeps A Bird Up In The Air?

The shape of its wings. The upper surface is raised in a curve, so that air traveling across it has to move faster than air moving under the wing. Air moving faster is at a lower pressure than slower air, so the higher pressure under the wing pushes it upwards as it moves through the air. The first humans to discover how this “aerofoil section” works were Australian Aborigines, when they invented the boomerang.

How Do Birds Land ?

Ideally, by stalling (ceasing to move forward) just as they touch down. Large water birds, like swans, can water-ski to a halt on outstretched feet. Boobies and albatrosses, which spend most of the year at sea, often crash and tumble over when they finally return to land to breed.

What Bird Can Fly For Six Hours Without Moving Its Wings?

With its long, narrow wings, an albatross is perfectly adapted for gliding, even in still air. But when it glides close to the sea surface it can make use of wind currents from the waves, giving it an almost continuous source of lift, meaning that in this type of flight it only has to hold its wings still.

How Does A Hummingbird Hover?

By keeping its body nearly vertical while its wings beat forward and backward. It is actually flying upward just fast enough to balance its body weight, so that it stays still. A ruby-throated hummingbird, which weighs less than H oz has to beat its wings more than 52 times a second to hover in front of a flower.

What Is The Heaviest Bird In The Air?

The Kori bustard, from East and South Africa, weighs about 31 lb: the largest specimen known weighed just over 18 40 lb. Because it finds flying such hard work, the Kori bustard flies only in emergencies, and only for short distances.

What Is The World’s Fastest Bird?

People will always argue about this. Most think that the peregrine falcon is the fastest bird by far, but when its speed was accurately measured the maximum in level flight was 58 mph. Measurements by radar show that eider ducks fly for long periods at 45 mph, but the world record is held by the Asian spine-tailed swift, which has been timed at 102 mph in. level flight.

What Has Wing Shape To Do With Flight?

Birds’ wings are shaped differently depending on how they need to fly. Fast flight demands narrow wings, like those of swallows, while quick flight in woodland needs short, rounded wings, like those of a bluetit. Falcons change the shape of their wings from long and narrow for fast flight, to swept-back for diving at top speed. Gannets have long wings for long-distance flight and gliding: when they dive to catch fish they fold their stretched wings backward, like the flights of a dart.

Which Bird Spends Its Whole Life In The Summer?

The Arctic tern breeds in the Arctic, to within 430 miles of the North Pole, and migrates every year to the Antarctic, a total distance of 23,000 miles between breeding seasons. It spends its whole life in the summer.

Why Do Some Birds Stay Behind?

In Sweden, female and young chaffinches migrate south in winter, but some males stay behind in their breeding territories. European blackbirds do the same: it seems that the males that stay behind through the winter can hold on to the best breeding territories for when the females return in spring.

Which Is The Smallest Migrant Bird?

The rufous hummingbird, less than 4 in) long, flies every year from Alaska to its winter quarters in Mexico, a round trip of 3,800 miles.

How Fast Do Migrating Birds Fly?

Studies using radar show that small birds like warblers move at about 21 mph when they are migrating, and ducks at about 42 mph. They usually fly for only about six or eight hours a day, but one knot ringed in England was found in Liberia, 3,400 miles away, only eight days later. It had covered an average distance of 420 miles per day; since knots fly at about the same speed as ducks, it must have been traveling for 10 hours every day.

Where Did People Think Swallows Went In Winter?

They thought that they hibernated, perhaps in hollow trees, or even in the mud at the bottom of ponds. This is not as crazy as it sounds: in cold weather swallows often roost in groups in hollow trees or chimneys, and in spring they can be seen collecting mud at the edge of pools to make their nests.

Why Are Lighthouses Dangerous?

The beams from lighthouses attract migrating birds, especially during misty conditions. Many birds are killed when they fly against the glass.

When Do Birds Behave Like Sailors?

When birds migrate, they use a mixture of signs, including the position of the sun and stars for navigating on long-distance flights. They also use local landmarks when they are near their destination. They have a “compass” in their heads with which they can sense the earth’s magnetic field, and choose their direction accordingly.

Why Do Migrating Birds Fly So Far?

To move out of areas which are suitable for breeding back to places where they can survive the winter. The reason for moving back to the breeding area is usually because it contains plenty of food in the summer to feed the chicks.

How Do Jays And Oak Trees Help Each Other?

As well as preying on the chicks of other birds, jays feed on acorns. In fall, when acorns are plentiful, jays bury some of them to dig up later. Those that they don’t find will grow into new oak trees.

When Is A Thrush Like A Blacksmith?

A song thrush uses a stone, called an anvil, to kill snails, which it beats against the stone until the shell breaks.

Which Bird Eats Only Snails?

The Everglades kite, in Florida, is a genuine bird of prey, with strong talons and a sharply hooked beak, but its only food is apple snails. As the Everglades dry up, the snails are becoming scarce, which is why the kite is also becoming rare.

Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches?

When a woodpecker drills the bark of a tree, using its head as a hammer and its beak as a chisel, soft, spongy bone between beak and the skull’ absorbs most of the impact.

Why Are Hummingbirds Good For Flowers?

They pollinate them when they collect nectar. Grains of pollen stick to the hummingbird’s head, and are transferred to the next flower it visits.

Do Birds Use Tools?

Yes. Woodpecker finches in the Galapagos use cactus spines to winkle out larvae from their burrows in dead wood, because they can’t reach them with their short beaks. Egyptian vultures pick up stones and drop them on ostrich eggs to break them. Green-backed herons in the United States have been seen using bread as bait to bring fish within reach of their bill.

Why Do Gannets End Up In Fishing Nets?

People used to say that gannets can dive to 164 feet, because they are sometimes found caught in fishing nets set at that depth. But they stay underwater for 10 seconds or less, so they wouldn’t have time to get that deep. In fact, they rarely dive more than 32 feet: the unfortunate birds in the nets must have been caught and killed as the nets were pulled up.

How Do Birds Catch Fish?

With their beaks-which often have a hooked tip or jagged edges to help them grip their prey-or with their feet, like fish eagles or ospreys. As well as long, curved talons, the feet often have roughened soles to improve the grip. The African fish eagle strikes its prey with its long hind talon and then clenches the others round it.

How Many Kinds Of Bird Have Become Extinct?

More than 150 since 1600-that we know about -and probably many more that no one ever noticed. It wasn’t just European explorers who did the damage: archaeology shows that when people first arrived in ancient times on Hawaii, and islands in the South Pacific and the Caribbean, they killed many birds that Europeans never even saw.

Why Is It Dangerous For Birds To Live On Islands ?

Until humans came along, islands were among the safest places for birds to live, but people soon changed that. The first danger came from passing sailors, who came ashore for water and wood, and without knowing it brought rats with them. Rats are very good predators on island birds. When people started to live in the islands, cats and dogs, and even pigs, continued the damage started by the rats.

Who Ate The Dodo And The Solitaire?

The dodo was a large, flightless pigeon living on Mauritius. All dodos were wiped out when people first came to their islands. Some were eaten by people and the rest by introduced pigs and rats. By the middle of the 18th century they were all extinct.

Who Is Destroying The Worlds Forests?

The increasing human population. In the tropics, people clear forests to grow food for their families or for large companies. The demand for large timber in Europe, North America, and Japan is all too often met by chopping down irreplaceable ancient forests.

Why Is The Nene Important?

The nene was the first bird species to be bred in captivity- at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in England and in Hawaii-with the intention of releasing it back into its home when it was safe to do so. The operation was a success.

Where Is The Endangered Barn Owl A Pest ?

In the Seychelles, where someone had the bright idea of introducing barn owls from South Africa to kill rats. They instantly started killing birds instead, especially fairy terns, and taking over the nest sites of the rare Seychelles kestrel.

How Many Of The World’s Bird Species Are Endangered?

Eleven percent, most of them because of the harm done by people to the natural environment. Draining wetlands and felling forests are the main causes of damage, but the misuse of pesticides and industrial pollution also play a part.

Why Was North Americas Commonest Bird Made Extinct?

Before 1840 there were thousands of millions of passenger pigeons in North America, but they were slaughtered for food until only one was left-a female called Martha-who died at 12 years old in 1914, in a zoo in Ohio.

Why Does The Californian Condor Owe Its Survival To A Glove Puppet?

When condors, nearly extinct in the wild, were being bred in captivity, scientists wanted to avoid the chicks becoming too familiar with humans. They fed them with meat held in a glove puppet that looked like a condor’s head.