To be able to fly like a bird is a dream for many. However, there is so much to know about these little creatures.
Since birds don’t have houses where do they store food? In their throat. Yes, birds have a bulge below their throat called the ‘Storage Bag’. Food stays there and can be coughed up for chicks to eat. Amazing isn’t it?
Not having teeth is not an obstacle for birds. They have a special grinding organ called a Gizzard. Food is crushed by the muscles as it sloshes around the gizzard. Some birds swallow grit and small stones, these stay in the gizzard and help to grind the food.
Not only can birds breathe oxygen into their lungs, they can also store this flying fuel in tiny sacs all over their body.
A nest is a cradle in which eggs and baby birds are kept safe from enemies such as snakes and rats. Nests can be holes in the trees, mounds of earth or piles of branches. Each species tries to give its chicks the best chances of survival by safeguarding them till they are old enough to fly. Birds build their nests from all sorts of things. Most nests are made of twigs and leaves, but a few use stronger ingredients like string, cattle hair, seeds and believe it or not silver foil. Many songbirds glue their nest together with sticky cobwebs, like we use cement.
Before starting a family male birds have to attract a mate. Family life for most birds is short, but busy. After the female bird has mated, she lays her eggs. When the chicks hatch they eat a lot, grow big and the moment they are able to fly, they leave the nest.
The chick cheeps to tell the parents it is hatching. The blunt end of the egg is pecked off by the chick with a horny spike called an Egg Tooth. After the chick has pushed itself head first, out of the egg, it is extremely tired. It takes a bit of rest, when the wet sticky fluff or down dries off. After a few days the egg tooth drops off just like our milk teeth. When a chick is small it’s called a nestling, which is very helpless when it hatches and is blind at birth. All it does is eat and grow in size.
When the baby birds leave home they are known as fledglings. Many are devoured by animals like cats and dogs but some survive and go on to have families of their own.
A bird goes through so much for its survival. Isn’t its life-story simply amazing?
Feathers and more
The bones of a bird are different from ours. Most birds’ bones are hollow like straws, as solid bones would make them too heavy to fly. The feathers not only keep the bird warm and dry but it also enables it to stay in the air. These feathers are made up of Keratin like our hair and nails.
Under its body feathers the bird wears a warm vest of fluffy down feather much like a sweater that keeps us warm. Did you know that a Rosella bird has 4,000 feathers? Adult birds lose old feathers and grow new ones, this process is called Moulting.
The primary feathers at the front of the wings can twist like propellers to power the bird through the air. The secondary flight feathers at the back of the wings help lift the bird up in the air. Tail feathers are used for steering and stopping; different feathers for different motions. That’s flight engineering.
The feather is divided into three parts: the vane, the strong shaft and the quill. Each flight feather has a million fine strands called barbules. These hook around each other and hold the feather in shape even in extremely windy weather. Birds keep their feathers clean and tidy by preening. They nibble each feather to zip the barbules back together and to get rid of insects.
Birds’ eye view
Hunting birds have eyes on the front of their heads so that the sight from both eyes overlaps and they can see exactly how far away their victims are. No need for binoculars. Birds which are eaten by other animals have eyes on the side of their head, so that they can look around for danger.