Bird Facts


The Stuka: These Arctic terns know little fear and will dive-bomb larger predators, often in squadrons.See more bird pictures.
Frans Lemmens/Getty Images

Approximately 10,000 species of birds make up the class Aves--a diverse group that has long fascinated the human race with peculiar behaviors and adaptations.

Home invader: The kea (New Zealand), the world's only cold-weather parrot, loves to swing on car antennas and sled down the snowy roofs of ski lodges. The bird's favorite sport, though, is to get inside a lodge through its chimney and then trash the joint in search of food.

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Neighborhood lookout: Bright-beaked puffins (Northern seacoasts) adopt a low-profile walk to tell other puffins they are just passing through. The other puffins adopt a sentry pose to warn the tourists not to get any bright ideas.

Deep-sea diver: The common loon (northern North America and Greenland) can dive more than 250 feet below the water's surface.

Vermonter at heart: The widespread sapsucker bores holes in trees, then slurps up the sweet sap.

Sanitary engineer: A malleefowl (Australia) lays eggs in a nest full of rotting vegetation. The decay gives off heat to keep the eggs warm; the male bird checks the temperature often and adjusts the pile as necessary.

Airborne garbage disposal: The gull-like sheathbill (Antarctic) eats dead fish, other birds' eggs and babies, even seal and bird droppings.

Mugger: Skuas (various cold aquatic climes) are gull-like seabirds that chase other birds and force them to drop or cough up their food.

Find more bird facts on the following page.

More Bird Facts

Detox dieter: The stunning scarlet macaw (South America) eats clay from riverside deposits, which may help it process toxic seeds it consumes.
Detox dieter: The stunning scarlet macaw (South America) eats clay from riverside deposits, which may help it process toxic seeds it consumes.
ZSSD/ Getty Images.

Aussie storm chaser: Huge, flightless emus (Australia) run after rain clouds, hoping for water.

Poacher: The world's smallest owl (about five inches), the elf owl (Mexico and southwest United States), moves into abandoned gila woodpecker holes in cacti.

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Family planner: Similar to the cockatoo, the galah (Australia) raises a larger or smaller clutch of chicks, depending on food availability. ZSSD/Getty Images Detox dieter: The stunning scarlet macaw (South America) eats clay from riverside deposits, which may help it process toxic seeds it consumes.

Sponge dad: A male sand grouse (Asian and African deserts) soaks himself in water, then flies back to the nest so his chicks can drink from his feathers.

Mach 0.13 in level flight: The spine-tailed swift (Asia) can fly 106 miles per hour--without benefit of a dive.

Captain Ahab: The wetlands-dwelling anhinga spears fish with a long, sharp, slightly barbed beak that keeps dinner from sliding off.

Lazy mom: A paradise whydah hen (equatorial and southern Africa) lays her eggs in a finch nest. This fools the finch, which raises the chicks as its own.

Fears nothing: The two-and-a-half-foot-tall great gray owl (northern forests) has a wingspan of five feet and fiercely attacks anything that gets too close to its nest and owlets.

Preventive measures: The southern carmine bee-eater (Africa) rubs a bee's "butt" against a tree branch to break off its stinger.

Bone-breaker: European and Asian mountains are home to the lammergeier, a high-flying vulture that drops bones repeatedly to get at the tasty marrow.

Sturdy swimmer: American dipper birds, also known as "water duzels," use their strong wings to "fly" under and through water to catch prey.

This article was adapted from "The Book of Incredible Information," published by West Side Publishing, a division of Publications International, Ltd.

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