50 Colorful Facts about Birds and their Behavior

1Crows

Crows are one of the smartest non-primate animals on earth, with the intelligence of a 7-year-old human. They use and manipulate tools, they have a long-term memory including facial recognition, and they understand analogy.


2. In the 1930's a flute player released his pet lyrebird into the wild, which was able to mimic certain phrases of the man's music. The bird has shared the music with other lyrebirds and the same melodies are still sung by these birds today.


3. The first animal to ask an existential question was a parrot named Alex. He asked what color he was, and learned that he was “grey.”


4. The Peregrine Falcon hunts by diving at more than 230 mph straight down and killing the prey on impact with its balled foot. It kills other birds with a literal falcon punch.


5. Crows in New Caledonia have been found to bend twigs into hooks that they use to extract food hidden in wooden logs, which confirms that wild birds can make tools.


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6Hummingbirds

Some species of Hummingbirds can travel 385 miles on a single gram of fat.


7. The Kiwi bird lays an egg that can weigh up to a quarter of its body mass. Proportionally, that's like a chicken laying a one-pound egg or a human giving birth to a 4-year-old.


8. The Harpy Eagle parents prey on harder to catch food further away from the nest so that when the child eagle finally begins to hunt on its own, an abundant amount of easy to catch prey (like sloths and monkeys) are available close to the nest.


9. Nigel, the English-speaking African grey parrot once vanished from his owner's California home for 4 years, diminishing the owner’s hopes for his return. Amazingly, he not only did return but was able to speak Spanish when he showed up.


10. In order to discover that penguins sleep more deeply in the afternoon, scientists crept up on sleeping king penguins at different times of the day and poked them with a stick until they woke up.


11Male penguins

Male penguins have been observed having sex with other male penguins, having sex with dead penguins and having sex with unwilling female penguins. When this was discovered in 1912, the findings were considered too lewd to be published.


12. A man named George Archibald spent several years acting as the mate of a female whooping crane - sleeping, dancing, and building nests with her - as part of an effort to save the species from extinction and it worked.


13. When a crow dies, the other crows investigate if there's a threat where the death occurred, so they can avoid it in the future.


14. The Emperor Penguin can dive to a depth of 1,850 feet (565 meters), which is deeper than any other bird and deeper than the operational range of most naval submarines.


15. City birds have learned to line their nests with cigarette butts in order to ward off parasites, as burnt nicotine works as an insecticide to ward off mites, lice, and fleas.


16Cher Ami

A pigeon named Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its service during World War I. Cher Ami delivered the S.O.S. message of a lost, encircled battalion despite being shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood, and with a leg hanging only by a tendon.


17. Crows have different warning calls for different predators. They have one for cats, and one for hawks, and another for humans. In total they can have up to 250 different types of calls.


18. The Honeyguide birds are known to lead humans (and other large mammals) to beehives. Once the hive is broken and the human has removed the honey, the bird proceeds to feed on the beeswax and larvae.


19. An extinct bird named Rodrigues Solitaire had strange knob-like balls on its wings. These balls were used by the bird as a deadly weapon to defend territory and its mate. It also made a noise that sounded similar to thunder from a distance.


20. The Australian Night Parrot is one of the most elusive and mysterious bird in the world. Only 3 people have had a confirmed sighting in over a century.


21Passenger pigeons

In 1886, there was a humongous flock of the now extinct passenger pigeons spotted in Southern Ontario. The flock was a mile wide, 300 miles long, and took 14 hours to pass a single point. There were estimated to be something in excess of 3.5 billion birds in that flock.


22. Falcons on the Moroccan island of Mogador catch small birds and then proceed to remove their flight and tail feathers. They then imprison them in crevasses in the rocks to eat them later.


23. A type of seabird named Fulmar vomits a putrid and fishy smelling oil on its assailants in self-defense. Not only does it smell horrific, but it's lethal to predatory birds because it permanently glues their feathers together.


24. Millions of birds are killed each year by radio antennas. Changing the static red light to a blinking light can cut the death toll by up to 70%.


25. Most birds can’t move their eyes, which are not spherical like in mammals. They are also tetrachromatic, meaning they have 4 retinal cones (primary colors) versus 3 in humans, allowing most birds to see the UV spectrum and distinguish between colors that appear identical to humans.

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