12 Bird Facts You Didn’t Know

The Canary Islands were not named for a bird called a canary. They were named after a breed of large dogs. The Latin name was Canariae insulae – “Island of Dogs.”

“Eat like a bird?” Many birds eat twice their weight a day. To survive, every bird must eat at least half its own weight in food each day.

The common Black Ants and Wood Ants have no sting, but they can squirt a spray of formic acid. Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites.

The Kiwi, national bird of New Zealand, can’t fly and it is endangered. It is the only bird with nostrils at the tip of its beak. Whereas other birds hunt by sight or hearing, it uses its beaky nostrils to sniff out food at night. This is because they are blind. They live in a hole in the ground. The Kiwi is roughly the same size as a chicken yet it lays an egg which is ten times larger than a hen’s. They lay the largest eggs relative to their body size of any bird in the world. It lays only one egg each year. Despite this, it has survived for more than 70 million years.

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A Kiwi Bird

Just before Arctic terns begin their long journey, the entire colony of birds become silent – this is called a dread.

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A flock of Arctic Terns

The first bird domesticated by man was the goose.

The Antpitta avis canis Ridgley is a bird that looks like a stuffed duck on stilts and barks like a dog. The bird was discovered by ornithologist Robert S. Ridgley in the Andes in Ecuador in June 1998. Thirty of these long-legged, black-and-white barking birds were found. It apparently had gone undetected because it lives in remote parts and, of course, doesn’t sing. The size of a duck, it is one of the largest birds discovered in the last 50 years.

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Antpitta avis canis Ridgley

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds. So tiny that one of their enemies is an insect, the praying mantis. Their brain is 4.2 percent of its body weight and it is proportionately the largest among birds. Among birds, they lay the smallest eggs. They are the only birds that can fly sideways and backwards.

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Air sacs may make up 1/5 of the body volume of a bird.

Roadrunners are large (about two feet long) crested birds that prefer to run rather than fly. They eat Rattlesnakes whole, and they can sprint at a speed of 15 miles per hour.

There’s a misconception that birds’ knees bend in the wrong direction but it’s just the same as with any other animal. Birds’ legs look like they’re backwards because we’re actually looking at their ankles. Birds’ knees are right by their bodies and normally covered by feathers, and their ankles are well off the ground. Their knees bend exactly like ours do.

The optimum depth of water in a birdbath is two and a half inches. Less water makes it difficult for birds to take a bath; more makes them afraid.

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