Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.
Weird, Strange, and Wonderful Birds!
Birds are everywhere.
They have adapted to life in the wilderness. They live in forests and jungles. They live in deserts and high mountains. They also live in rivers and far out at sea. Some even live in caves and underground burrows. You see them in parks and gardens and nesting on buildings in the heart of the biggest cities.
The only place on Earth that birds haven't managed to colonize is the deepest ocean.
But let's face it, hardly anything has.
Well, apart from some scary, bug-eyed, gloopy things that look more like they've splashed out of the pages of a science fiction comic than anything else!
Bird Exhibition: Exotic Fairground Attractions
Fun Facts About Birds
So let's take a light-hearted look at some fascinating and fun facts about birds.
All birds have feathers and wings and a 'bill' or 'beak.' Those are the basic things that define what a bird is.
But the variations on that theme are mind-boggling. Let's take a look at my list of the top ten fun and interesting facts about birds.
'Beep Beep!' It's Roadrunner!
Those of you of a certain age or younger folk who watch the re-runs on a cartoon channel, will know about the classic comedy capers revolving around the efforts of Wile E. Coyote to capture the elusive Roadrunner.
What you may not know, is that the roadrunner is a real bird! But before we look at the astonishing truth about this real life, crazy-bird, let's just take a quick look at the cartoon version.
Here he is in a typical comedy caper.
Facts About Roadrunners
Roadrunners are real birds that live in the deserts of the American southwest.
Like all birds, they have wings but they very rarely fly. When they do, they are not very good at it!
But... they sure can run.
For a relatively small bird, they can zip along through the desert at a cool 20 miles per hour. That's as fast as any Olympic sprinter.
If you're from the southwest, you might have seen a roadrunner whizzing along the road, although in real life they rarely run in a straight line. But, because they are so quick, they frequently catch rattlesnakes. When they do, they swallow them whole. Yum.
Facts about Toucans
Toucans are top heavy!
There is no bird known that has a bigger bill in relation to the size of its body than the Toucan.
You might wonder how it can even lift this extraordinary appendage. Interestingly, the bill is not solid. It is formed of a lattice-work of hollow sections—a little like the inside of a sponge. This means that it can be big and very robust without being heavy.
Even so, when it comes time to rest, the only way a Toucan can get some sleep is to twist its head all the way round and rest its bill out along its back.
A Toucan Eating Fruit
Toucans Are Good Mimics
Parrots are well known as mimics of human speech. But did you know that Toucans, if kept in captivity, can also pick up quite a wide vocabulary?
As with parrots, this comes from them being social birds that live in dense jungles. Vocal communication between individuals in the flock is very important for recognition and sharing information about where to find food or warnings that a predator is nearby.
Each Toucan recognizes its own parents and group by their specific calls.
Toucans don't make good pets. They require very specialist care and lots of space to live happily in captivity.
But talking of parrots...
3. Parrots. Parlez-vous Parrot?
From the famous literary pirate Long John Silver's parrot squawking 'Pieces of eight, pieces of eight' to the super brainy parrot, Alex, that the scientist Irene Pepperberg taught to identify fifty different objects and ask for them in English whenever he wanted one, parrots are well known for their intelligence and chatty nature!
But did you know that parrots can also learn to count, recognize and name different colors and shapes and even be trained to perform simple household chores?
Scientists such as Dr. Pepperberg now believe that these parrots don't just mimic human speech but can learn to use it with the same understanding as a two-year-old child.
Not everyone agrees with her interpretation but it is a fascinating and fun idea.
It is certainly food for thought. After all, why should we imagine that we are the only animals that have evolved intelligence? Quite clearly lots of other animals have. Not the sort that could get them a degree from Harvard, of course, but maybe more than we might have realized.
Dr. Pepperberg has written a super book all about her experiences with Alex. My copy is quite dog-eared now, and the first time I opened the covers I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It's fascinating, funny, and will also make you cry.
Here's a cool video of her and Alex doing their thing.
Dr Pepperberg and Alex
"Alex and Me" by Dr. Irene Pepperberg
Dr. Pepperberg's talking parrot, Alex, is probably one of the most famous parrots of all time.
After he died, at the age of thirty-one, Dr. Pepperberg wrote in the book I mentioned earlier, about her experiences with him, that the last words they shared together were:
"You be good. I love you," Alex said.
"I love you too."
"You'll be in tomorrow?"
"Yes, I'll be in tomorrow."
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Not all these intense relationships develop only between owners and their captive birds.
There is one example of the extraordinary bonds that can be formed between humans and wild birds, too.
Check out this astonishing true story of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill...
What do you mean, you've never heard of Tinamous?
Don't worry, not many people have!
So far the birds we've looked at have all been interesting and fun because of how well they have adapted but these next guys are more like the clowns at the circus than the amazing acrobats or the mystifying magic act.
Picture of a Tinamous
Tinamous: Shy Birds That Panic
The Tinamous are a very timid creature. It is rarely seen as it is also very well camouflaged. They tend to creep about at ground level keeping out of everyone else's way. But...
... if one is disturbed, boy is it disturbed.
Once they know they have been spotted, they tend to panic. They shoot upwards in a manic, high-speed flight. And they can go really fast. Unfortunately, they tend not to look where they are going.
Many Tinamous, once panicked, fly straight into the nearest tree and... bam! kill themselves outright.
While they can fly fast, they can't fly for long. They're related to Ostriches, which are completely flightless.
When they tire, they drop back to the ground and carry on running. Unfortunately, they sometimes land on water and... well, you guessed it, they can't swim.
Poor Tinamous. Still, they are a family of birds that evolved about 100, 000 years ago and they're still around, so I guess they must be doing something right!
Ostrich: That's One Big Chicken!
Okay, of course all birds are related on the evolutionary tree of life, but ostriches and chickens are only very distant cousins.
Maybe they are more closely related to Big Bird from Sesame Street. They are certainly big.
Ostriches tend to look down on humans—from a height of about nine feet!
They can run up to 60 miles per hour.
Not only are they tall and fast but they are also pretty darned heavy, weighing in at a hefty 350 pounds.
The shell of an ostrich egg is about six times thicker than a chicken egg and an adult human could stand on one without it cracking.
So they are big and fast and heavy.
Buy they're not so smart.
In fact, an ostrich's brain is even smaller than its eye.
Oh. and just in case you're wondering...
... no, they don't really stick their heads in the sand!
An Ostrich Egg
6. Madagascan Elephant Bird
Well, if you thought the Ostrich was big, how about the Madagascan Elephant Bird?
Somewhat resembling an ostrich in body shape, this feathered giant really was as big as an elephant, growing up to eleven and a half feet tall.
They must have made quite a sight, stalking on those huge legs through the dense Madagascan Jungle.
Despite their great size and fearsome appearance, they were actually quite harmless vegetarians, grazing on leaves and herbs.
Unfortunately, these astonishing beasts were hunted to extinction by the end of the sixteenth century.
So, all we have left to show, are some bones. By they are mighty impressive bones at that!
Don't you think they look like dinosaurs?
Elephant Bird Skeletons
7. The Bee Hummingbird
So let's go from the very big to the very small.
The bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird that has ever existed.
It has not been hunted to extinction (not much meat on it I guess).
The Smallest Bird in the World
Facts About the Bee Hummingbird
The bee hummingbird hails from the island of Cuba.
It is really tiny and while not quite as small as a bee, has an overall length from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail of a minuscule 2 inches - that's about 5 centimeters!
This little fella doesn't weigh much as you can imagine. In fact, it weighs about the same as two dimes held in the palm of your hand. That's about 0.07 ounces or just 2 grams.
But it does everything that its larger cousins do well, the thing that hummingbirds are most famous for - it flaps its little wings at about eighty beats per second. That's right, per second.
It can hover and switch up, down, left and right - even fly backwards - with mathematical precision.
Quite the little guy, don't you think?
Bee Hummingbird Flying and Nesting
8. The Wandering Albatross
The Wandering Albatross is the largest living flying bird.
An adult male weighs about 25 pounds—that's the size of a Thanksgiving turkey.
It has a wingspan of twelve feet. So an adult human could lie down under the outstretched wing and be completely covered.
Individual birds are also very long lived. The typical age for an albatross to reach is about seventy or more years.
Young Wandering Albatross in Flight
They fly over distances of up to six hundred miles in one day.
When the young albatross leaves the nest for the first time, it will spend at least seven years flying out at sea before returning to land for the first time. During that maiden flight, a typical albatross will cover something close to one and a half million miles.
In its lifetime, an albatross will normally cover fifteen million miles—the equivalent of flying to the moon and back eighteen times!
In recent years, their numbers have been rapidly declining, putting them on the Red List for conservation status. Their decline is due to overfishing the oceans by humans.
Will anything survive our greed?
Albatross: The Biggest Flying Birds
9. Eurasian Eagle Owl
Not all birds can be readily seen during the day.
Of the night birds, owls are probably the most well-known.
And of the owls, the Eurasian Eagle Owl is undoubtedly the biggest and most impressive.
They can have a wingspan of up to five and a half feet and weigh in at a cool seven pounds. Despite this great size, however, they can fly silently, gliding on their outstretched wings.
Eurasian Eagle Owl
In most species, the male is usually bigger than the female but not so with the Eurasian Eagle Owl. The female is always bigger - sometimes as much as three times bigger - than the male.
One of the owl's distinctive features is the presence of little 'horns' or 'ears' sticking up from the top of its head. These are actually neither ears nor horns! They are simply tufts of feathers and while there are several theories about why they are there - from an aid to camouflage to an attempt to look more frightening to aggressors - nobody really knows what they are for!
Now watch this AWESOME video of an Eagle Owl flying...
Eagle Owl Flying - Awesome!
10. Puffins - Clowns of the Sea!
So here we are near the end of our fascinating and fun facts about birds.
Most people think of birds as living in trees or at least making their homes and nests in them.
But we've already seen that they also live out at sea and in the desert where there are very few trees of any kind.
The Puffin lives on remote northern islands where there are no trees at all.
They make their homes and nests in deep underground burrows—just the same as rabbits!
And just like rabbits, they tend to make these burrows together in huge colonies.
They are often called 'clowns of the sea' but that's not because they are especially funny in the way they behave but because of their brightly colored bills, which have reminded people of clown make-up.
Now watch this cute video of Puffins popping in and out of their burrows.
Puffins in Burrows
Find out more about birds...
I hope that you've enjoyed reading these top ten fun and interesting facts about birds as much as I have writing about them!
I've done some more research for you and found some cool sites and other resources you can check out if you want to find out more about the fascinating world of birds - they are amazing aren't they?
You can find these resources below. Just click through to whatever interests you most.
Oh, and before you go, just fly up to the poll above and cast your vote!
- Birds - videos, photos and facts - ARKive
Most popular birds. View videos and photos of 50 of the most popular birds in nature. Learn more about their biology, threats and conservation.
- 10,000 Birds
Birding, blogging, conservation, and commentary
- BirdLife International - conserving the world's birds
BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working together for the world's birds and people.
One Question Quiz
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Which island does the tiny bee hummingbird hail from?
© 2013 Amanda Littlejohn
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on August 02, 2015:
Thanks so much for your kind comment. I'm delighted that you enjoyed reading about the birds.
Bless you :)
goutham on August 02, 2015:
Recommended for You
well,that was just so great.soo glad to know about those crazy birds thx #stuff4kids
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on August 30, 2014:
Yes, the tinamous really do bring trouble on themselves but as I say, they have survived as a species for a long, long time so somehow they must be doing something right, I guess!
Thanks for your comment. Bless you :)
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on August 30, 2014:
You're welcome. :)
RTalloni on August 30, 2014:
Poor tinamous! You have me wanting to learn more about its life. Thanks for a neat read.
KynaMavies on May 15, 2014:
Thank you :)
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on April 30, 2014:
Thanks for your comment and I'm so pleased that you enjoyed this exploration of fun and interesting facts about birds.
And thanks for the video link, too. There's some great footage there - once you get through all the ads and intro.
Bless you :)
KynaMavies on April 30, 2014:
I really likes this, found it very interesting! I saw this video today on different birds http://youtu.be/NEFdCnax2LE which you might find interesting too :)
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on March 20, 2014:
Thank you everyone for all your kind comments and congratulations on this HOTD. I do SO appreciate it and only wish I could reply individually as I usually do - but for all kinds of reasons I have to be away from the computer for a while (a friend in need, in short) but I WILL get round to 'seeing' you all as soon as I can!
Thank you again - what a lovely, supportive community you are.
Bless you all. :D
Ashutosh Tiwari from Lucknow, India on March 20, 2014:
Great organization and articulation of the ideas !
Well done !
Rebecca from USA on March 19, 2014:
I really enjoyed this. Nice job! It was funny and interesting, and had lots of useful content. Voted up.
dontaytte from Palos Hills on March 19, 2014:
Great hubs for all bird lovers
Bex Walton from Kent, UK on March 19, 2014:
I don't have any children but that doesn't stop me finding this interesting and a real entertaining treat. Congratulations on being Hub of the Day - well deserved.
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 19, 2014:
Mindi, I'm back to pin this and to say congratulations on HOTD. This was a very entertaining and educational hub.
Howard S. from Dallas, Texas, and Asia on March 19, 2014:
Interesting. I don't want to blatantly promote my own hubs here, but I think you will find my three on megapodes to be quite compatible and linkable to this, including scientific facts and original line drawings to color. They do not automatically link at the bottom of yours because we chose different breadcrumb categories; megapodes are endangered and not suitable as pets.
Bernadyn from Jacksonville, Florida on March 19, 2014:
Useful hub, fun and interesting facts about birds. All the videos were a good addition. Congrats on HOTD!
Danida from London on March 19, 2014:
I love learning about birds! Right now mammals dominate the planet, but millions of years ago after the dinosaurs died out, it was the birds that rules the earth!
Very interesting hub! :)
Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on March 19, 2014:
Great coverage of a very interesting species! I am going to read a few times to soak up all the fun facts!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 19, 2014:
What an excellent and interesting hub!
This is so informative and well researched and I learnt so much about birds today.
Thanks for sharing and congratulations for a well deserved HOTD!
Ashok Goyal from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India on March 19, 2014:
What a splendid hub. Recommended to be read by kids and only kids at ShortInspirationStories.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 19, 2014:
Kids, and adults too will surely find this a fun read!
kspriya on March 19, 2014:
Very attractive and informative write-up. Specially the information in "Did you know... box is very interesting. Great Job!!! Love to see more of such hubs.
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on February 09, 2014:
Hi LIKE - what a great name!
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.
Bless you. :D
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on February 09, 2014:
Thanks so much for your kind comments! And I'm delighted that you not only enjoyed the article but also found it useful - that's great.
Bless you and good luck with the thesis! :D
LIKE on February 09, 2014:
NIEC WORK YOU DONE NICE INFORMATION
raffy batalo on January 17, 2014:
what a wonderful article; i enjoyed ready this. I also learned a lot of things about birds. Now i can finally answer our thesis. xD
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on January 15, 2014:
Hi Dbro - thank you so so much for your comment!
I've corrected the error you pointed out. Of course, you are quite right - I meant the largest flying bird as opposed to flightless (which would be the ostrich) I'm so appreciative when an oversight like that is pointed out - thank you indeed!
I'm always in awe of talented visual artists - it must be wonderful to have those skills. Thanks again for your generous words.
Bless you :)
Dbro from Texas, USA on January 15, 2014:
Loved this hub. Just a question, though. You say the wandering albatross is the largest flightless bird, but then you go on to talk about their flight. I'm thinking you meant it is the largest bird that flies. Either way, this was a great hub.
I'm an artist, and I frequently paint birds. In fact, I just finished a pair of flamingos in watercolor.
Thanks again for this informative article!
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on January 08, 2014:
Hi grand old lady!
Thank you so much for your kind and generous comment.
I'm so happy that you enjoyed this hub and the videos - I took great care in choosing them so it's nice to know that they compliment the text well.
I love birds and I'm happy to promote their interests!
Bless you :)
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on January 05, 2014:
Such a beautiful and informative article. I watched each and every video and went so well with your explanations. I used to watch the roadrunners cartoons, they were so funny. The one about the parrots was so adorable and really very sad. It's nice to know that we can communicate with birds in more ways than we realize.
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on September 26, 2013:
Thanks so much for your comment. I have to say that hummingbirds really are astonishing, aren't they? Totally amazing and beautiful. Although I do like crows, too - they are so darned smart.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Bless you :)
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 25, 2013:
So well done. Although I enjoy them all, my favorite is probably the hummingbird. Voted up and more.
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on June 23, 2013:
Thanks for your comments! Yes, birds do have many adaptations based around their ability fly, such as 'pneumatic' or hollow bones - they also have a bones structure in which many of the bones are fused together for stability and so on.
Thanks for saying that this article is good and if you think it isn't the best, I would really find it helpful if you could tell me what it's missing - so I can make it better!
Happy you enjoyed it anyway and thanks for commenting.
Bless you :)
NIKHIL sheoran on June 17, 2013:
I think birds are amazing as they have hollow bones to fly
nikhil on June 15, 2013:
its good but not the best
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on May 25, 2013:
Hi priya and thank you so much for leaving your comment!
I think birds are very interesting, too and I'm glad you enjoyed this article.
Bless you :)
priya on May 24, 2013:
Thanks,its so interesting
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on April 27, 2013:
Thanks. I'm so happy that you enjoyed this and I share the 'wow' factor that you get from owls, for sure. Beautiful creatures they are.
Thanks for the 'pin.' I'm really gonna have to get to grips with the social media thing. I got as far as Twitter. Maybe Pinterest should be next. Reading about it in The Learning Center...
Thanks again. Bless. :)
Insightful Tiger on April 26, 2013:
Another very interesting hub that I want to read from start to finish!
The toucan was very interesting. Poor thing has to put his beak behind him to sleep!
I just think the owl is so beautiful!
Thanks for sharing! I'll be pinning this one on my animal's board :)
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on April 08, 2013:
Thank you for your kind comments, how lovely - I am happy that you enjoyed this. There was quite a lot of research but I really enjoyed it so it was fun and satisfying to do.
Bless you :)
wetnosedogs from Alabama on April 07, 2013:
Wow, you put a lot of work into this and it is so interesting. I sure did learn a lot about these birds.
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on April 07, 2013:
Thanks for reading this and for your lovely comments! I hope this wasn't too easy-going for you - your hubs are just fantastic and so full of detailed knowledge.
I spent quite a while reading through the Learning Center here before I started my first hub because I wanted to try to get things right. Truth is I'm still reading it!
I'm really looking forward to reading more of your stuff and thanks so much for the votes and all - it's so encouraging!
Bless you :)
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 07, 2013:
Hi Amanda. I must say this is excellent. For just starting our here on HubPages you are off to a rousings start, well done. As you may know I also have a thing for our featherd friends so I found this very interesting and educational. Voted up, shared, pinned.
Amanda Littlejohn (author) on April 05, 2013:
Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm happy that you enjoyed this hub. Hey and thanks for the votes and sharing - that's lovely!
Bless you :)
Eiddwen from Wales on April 05, 2013:
What a wonderful hub!!I lov eanything to do with animals/nature etc and this gem was indeed a treat.
Voted up and shared.