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Birds are ancient creatures that have existed since the time of the dinosaurs. There are over 10,000 living bird species on Earth, and they live on all continents, even Antarctica. Some birds eat seeds; others eat fruit, meat, fish, or even carrion. Some can swim, some can’t fly, and some migrate thousands of miles every year.
See the fact file below for more facts on Birds or alternatively download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
General Bird Facts
- Because of fossil and biological evidence, most scientists believe that birds are a specialized subgroup of theropod dinosaurs.
- Birds are warm-blooded vertebrates and belong to the class Aves.
- Birds have two feet, which makes them bipedal animals. They can stand, walk, run, and swim using their feet.
- There are about 10,000 living species, making them the most numerous vertebrates.
- More than half the species are “perching” birds or passerines.
- Birds can be found in every ecosystem in the world, even very cold ones like the Arctic and Antarctica.
- Birds range in size from 5.5 cm (2.2 in), like the bee hummingbird, to the largest ostrich at 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in).
- Birds lay eggs which are usually laid in a nest and are incubated by the parents. Different species lay different numbers of eggs and the patterns and colors of the eggs also vary according to species.
- Unlike other vertebrates, birds have feathers and a beak. They have no fur and no teeth.
- They have forelimbs that are covered with feathers and are called wings. The wings and lightweight skeleton allow them to fly. If they’re aquatic birds, like penguins, the wings help them swim underwater.
- The only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds.
- Birds are typically social animals that participate in social behaviors. They are known to work together in breeding, flocking, hunting, and mobbing predators that threaten them.
- Birds communicate using songs and calls. They can also communicate by using visual signals, such as quickly flapping their wings.
- About 120–130 species have become extinct since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then.
- The extinction of many species of birds is blamed on human activity. An example includes the famous dodo, which lived on the island of Mauritius and was hunted to extinction by sailors.
- There are currently about 1,200 species of birds that are threatened with extinction through habitat destruction, climate change, and the illegal pet trade. Though efforts are underway to protect them.
- Flying requires a lot of specialization, so the digestive and respiratory systems of birds have become adapted for flight.
- Birds are social, communicating with visual signals, calls, and songs, and participating in such behaviors as cooperative breeding and hunting.
- The skeleton consists of very lightweight bones so birds are not too heavy for flight. The bones are filled with air cavities that are connected to the respiratory system.
- Depending on the species of bird, the shape and size of the skeleton can vary. But the bones are generally quite flexible across all species.
- most birds have a large sternum and flattened ribs so there is room for the large flight muscles.
- Most birds have large eyes and eye sockets. The orbital cavity that houses the eyes is separated by a bony partition.
- The skull bones in adults are fused and do not show cranial sutures.
- Birds are gonochoric, meaning they have two sexes: either male or female. Females have WZ sex chromosomes, while males have ZZ chromosomes.
- All bird species have internal reproductive organs. After mating, a female will lay her eggs and incubate them. Sometimes the male will take this role.
- Most birds take care of their young for an extended length of time after hatching. The chicks are generally born helpless, but some species like ducks can walk and swim right after hatching.
Respiratory and Circulatory Systems
- Birds have one of the most complex respiratory systems of all animal groups.
- This system enables a bird’s lungs to receive a constant supply of fresh air during both inhalation and exhalation as flying is very oxygen intensive.
- Birds make their sounds from anatomy in their trachea. The trachea is elongated in some species, increasing the volume of vocalizations and the perception of the bird’s size.
- Birds have a heart with four chambers. Compared to other mammals, birds’ hearts are small for their body size. This allows more blood to be pumped to meet the high oxygen demands of flight.
Feathers, Plumage, and Scales
- Feathers are a feature characteristic of birds.
- Feathers facilitate flight, provide insulation, and are used in courtship, territorial displays, and camouflage.
- There are several types of feathers, each serving its own set of purposes. Down is soft and light and used for warmth and insulation. Flight feathers are long and look like blades. These are for flying. Tail feathers help the birds steer, while feathers on the body keep the bird warm and dry.
- The arrangement and appearance of feathers on the body, called plumage, may vary within species by age, sex, and social status.
- Feathers require maintenance and birds preen or groom them daily. This keeps the feathers in place, clean, and moisturized with oil.
- A bird will periodically molt, which is when old feathers are replaced with new ones.
- A small number of species, such as ducks and geese, lose all of their flight feathers at once, temporarily becoming flightless.
- Before nesting, the females of most bird species lose feathers on their bellies so that the eggs can be closer to warm skin.
- The skin there is well supplied with blood vessels and helps the bird in incubation.
Diet and Feeding
- Birds’ diets are varied and often include fruit, plants, seeds, nectar, and various small animals, including other birds.
- The digestive system of birds is unique, compared to other animals. They have a sac called a crop that stores food and their gizzards digest food. Some birds will swallow stones to help the gizzards and to compensate for not having teeth.
- Because birds need to be light for flying, their digestive system is short and works very quickly. Some migratory birds have adapted to use protein stored in many parts of their bodies as additional energy during migration.
- Nectar feeders such as sunbirds, hummingbirds, lorikeets, and lories have evolved tongues with bristle-like structures and beak shapes to fit particular flowers.
- Penguins, diving ducks, loons, and auks pursue their prey underwater, using their wings or feet for propulsion.
- Aerial predators such as falcons, kingfishers, terns, and sulids plunge dive after their prey.
- Other birds, like vultures, are scavengers and feed on dead animals.
- Many bird species migrate to take advantage of global differences in seasonal temperatures, so there is always a supply of food and breeding habitat.
- These migrations vary among the different groups.
- Before migration, birds eat a lot to increase their fat reserves. This gives them energy stores for flying long distances.
- Migration is highly demanding energetically, particularly as birds need to cross deserts and oceans without refueling.
- Landbirds have a flight range of around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) and shorebirds can fly up to 4,000 km (2,500 mi).
- The bar-tailed godwit is capable of non-stop flights of up to 10,200 km (6,300 mi).
- Seabirds also undertake long migrations, the longest annual migration being those of sooty shearwaters, which nest in New Zealand and Chile and spend the northern summer feeding in the North Pacific off Japan, Alaska and California, an annual round trip of 64,000 km (39,800 mi).
- The ability of birds to return to precise locations across vast distances is well documented.
Breeding, Parental care, and Fledging
- Ninety-five percent of bird species are socially monogamous, pairing up with just one partner per breeding season. Others, like swans, are monogamous for life.
- In some species, both parents care for nestlings and fledglings; in others, such care is the responsibility of only one sex.
- Breeding usually involves some form of courtship display, typically performed by the male where he will dance or sing to attract a female’s attention.
- All birds lay amniotic eggs with hard shells made mostly of calcium carbonate.
- Eggs are usually laid in a nest made by a parent or parents.
- Hole and burrow nesting species tend to lay white or pale eggs, while open nesters lay camouflaged eggs.
- Incubation periods range from 10 days to over 80 days.
- At the time of their hatching, chicks range in development from helpless to independent, depending on their species.
- The length and nature of parental care vary widely amongst different orders and species.
- In most species, chicks leave the nest just before, or soon after, they are able to fly. This is called fledging.
- The sound of birds chirping at dawn is truly a beautiful sound to wake up to.
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Antarctica Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about birds of which there are over 10,000 living species on Earth and they live on all continents – including the Arctic and Antarctica. Birds are social creatures which is why they travel in a flock.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Bird Facts
- My Favorite Bird
- Pet and Not
- Bird Anatomy
- Birds Are…
- Birds of the Past
- Birds of Today
Birds of the Seven Continents
- North America – Bird Matching
- South America – Word Find
- Europe – Word Scramble
- Africa – Word Acrostics
- Australia – Color Art
- Antarctic – Cold Picture Picks
- Asia – National Birds
Frequently Asked Questions
Do birds pee?
Not in the traditional sense. The white part of bird poop is uric acid.
What is the most abundant bird in the world?
The domesticated chicken is the most abundant bird in the world. It is estimated that there are 30 billion in the world – that’s more than there are people! The next most abundant is the red-billed quelea at 1.5 billion – they are extremely destructive to grain crops.
How do birds mate?
Birds do not have external genitalia like other animals. Instead, a male bird’s sperm is stored in its cloaca and is deposited into the female’s cloaca when they make contact.
What is bird poop called?
Bird poop is called guano. It was very valuable in the 19th century for its use as a fertilizer because it is very high in nitrogen.
What birds can’t fly?
There are a few species of bird that cannot fly. These include the ostrich, emu and moa. Other examples include penguins, the kakapo, and the kiwi.
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Link will appear as Bird Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 20, 2017
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.