There are roughly 10, 000 species of birds in the world and it is estimated that a further 500 are yet to be discovered. Creatures of incredible diversity, birds are fascinating and beautiful in equal measure. They also boast a raft of surprising attributes and abilities. Here's 10 amazing facts about birds that will make you smile and give you the edge on Trivia night:
- Ostriches and chickens are the closest living relatives of the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. Research in 2008 found molecular evidence of a relationship that scientists had long suspected. There's certainly more to discover about the evolution of these species as chickens and ostriches are not closely related to each other.
- Young hoatzins have tiny claws on their wings. This species nests in trees overhanging water and so evolution has given them a built-in safety feature! When predators are attempting to eat baby hoatzins, the birds can climb back to their nests when they need to escape. The claws disappear when the youngsters can fly.
- Pigeons can recognise individual human faces and learn words. A recent study established that pigeons can learn to recognise up to 50 words and can distinguish words from other vocalisations.
- Cardinals and several other avian species are given to covering themselves in crushed or living ants! Scientists are not entirely sure why they do this but believe that the formic acid secreted by the ants helps the birds to rid themselves of lice and other parasites.
- Some ducks sleep with one eye open. When they are sleeping, ducks on the edge of a group keep guard. While the other ducks sleep deeply, those on the outside of the circle keep a portion of their brain awake when napping to prevent predators from sneaking up on the group.
- Ospreys remain aerodynamic when carrying their prey. These birds like to transport their prey close to home before tucking in. The amazing talons and pads on their feet enable them to grab their prey and they then hold it in the most aerodynamic position for efficient flight.
- Parasitic jaegers steel food from the mouths of other birds! This appropriately named feathered marvel chases other birds and then harasses them until they drop their meals. The clever jaeger then steals the food.
- Bearded vultures dye their own plumage but not through vanity! This species stands out from the crowd because it's diet is up to 90% bone but also because it dyes its feathers with red soil. Scientists aren't sure why but believe the colouring is a display of dominance.
- California condors are sometimes mistaken for small airplanes. Their wingspans are huge, making them an awesome sight. Sadly, by 1987, there were only 22 Californian Condors left. A captive breeding program has since helped their population to increase to over 400 and more than half of the captively bred birds have been released into the wild.
- The Bassian thrush farts at its prey. Yes, you read that correctly! This bird blows off to release gasses which startle earthworms! When the worms move as a result, the birds can easily locate their next meal.
There you have it! Birds are incredible! Let us know if you have any fascinating facts about our feathered friends.