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23 Fascinating Bird Facts About Our Feathered Friends

Birds are covered in feathers and come in remarkable colors. From the hummingbird to the perching bird, there are over 18,000 species of birds all over the planet. Many birds fly, while some can jump, run, and swim. Some of them are also quite bizarre.

What would our world look like without birds? Well, we will definitely miss the experience of seeing them beautify the sky on a bright day. What else do we know about these creatures called birds? Read on to discover 23 intriguing facts about birds that we have curated. 

Related: For more bird inspiration, check out what others say about our fine feathered friends in our compilation of the best bird quotes.

Summary: Essential Bird Facts

Bird Profile
Scientific name:Aves
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:There are approximately 40 living orders
Family:There are over 200 families
Genus:There are around 2,000 genera
Subspecies:Numerous subspecies exist for many bird species
Physical Characteristics
Average size:Depends on species, ranges from 2.75 inches (bee hummingbird) to 9 feet (ostrich)
Average weight:Depends on species, ranges from less than an ounce (bee hummingbird) to over 300 lbs (ostrich)
Distinctive characteristics:Feathers, beak with no teeth, oviparous with hard-shelled eggs, high metabolic rate
Habitat and Range
Habitat:Various types including forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, wetlands, and urban areas
Global range:Almost all terrestrial ecosystems, from the Arctic to the Antarctic
Conservation Status
Status:Varies greatly by species, from least concern to critically endangered
Threats:Habitat destruction, hunting, pollution, climate change
Initiatives:Legal protections, habitat preservation, reintroduction programs, public education

Quick Take: Bird Q&A

These Are Some of the Most Common Questions People Ask About Birds with Answers:

  • Which bird can fly backwards? - The hummingbird is the only bird capable of flying backwards.
  • What is the fastest bird? - The peregrine falcon, it can reach speeds up to 240 mph during dives.
  • What is the largest bird in the world? - The ostrich which can grow up to 9 feet tall.
  • Which bird lays the largest eggs? - The ostrich, its egg can weigh up to 3 pounds.
  • What is the smallest bird in the world? - The bee hummingbird, it measures approximately 2.75 inches in length.
  • Do all birds fly? - No, while most birds are capable of flight, some species like ostriches, kiwis, and penguins are flightless.
  • How long do birds live? - Lifespan varies greatly among species. Parrots and albatrosses can live for over 50 years, while some small songbirds may only live a few years.
  • Which bird migrates the furthest? - The Arctic tern, it travels over 25,000 miles each year between its Arctic breeding grounds and its winter home in Antarctica.

More Interesting Bird Facts In Detail

General bird facts - red cardinal
Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash.

1. There are more than 18,000 bird species in the world. 

Numerous bird species exist worldwide. Many scientists estimate the number of species to be over 10,000. However, according to new research, there are about 18,000 bird species in the world!1

The British Ornithologists Union (BOU) estimates that there are 628 species of birds in the UK and 1120 in the US. 

Studies from National Geographic revealed that the number of birds worldwide ranges from 50 billion to 430 billion4. The most common species are the perching birds or “passerines,” known for their feet' unique configuration. They have three toes pointing to the front and one to the back. This allows them to perch on slender structures like branches, wires, and feeders. They are also known for their unique vocals. Perching birds tend to burst into songs. 

Other common bird types include Columbiformes (doves and pigeons), Cuculiformes (cuckoo birds), and many others.

Read more: Type of Birds.

2. Birds are the only animals with feathers.

bird with feathers
Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Birds are warm-blooded vertebrate animals that lay eggs. One of the most recognizable features distinguishing birds from other animals is their feathers. While most birds fly, others, like penguins and ostriches, are flightless. However, all birds have feathers, and only birds have feathers. Despite having feathers, the world's only bird without wings is the Kiwi, native to New Zealand.

Primarily, birds use their feathers for flight. They have muscles at the base of each feather to aid motion as they fly. Feathers also regulate their temperature and help them attract a mate. Did you know that their feathers are also water-resistant? This helps to keep them dry in the rain or water. 

3. All female birds lay eggs.

Whether or not a female bird has a mate, they can all lay eggs. For example, chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs. There is a genetic link between the red ear lobes and the color of the eggs. The Araucana and Ameraucana chicken species lay green or blue eggs. 

The smallest bird egg comes from the hummingbird. Female birds generally increase their reproductive activity depending on environmental changes to prepare for egg-laying and caring for their chicks. After laying their eggs, the baby birds mature and hatch out of their shells. Birds create nests to incubate their eggs and care for their chicks. 

4. We can find birds all over the continents of the world. 

With thousands of bird species, birds are the only creatures we can find on every continent, including South America, North America, Africa, and so on. Birds can inhabit different environments and migrate from one habitat to another as the season changes to find food or shelter for their young. 

5. Birds flock together to protect themselves.

flock birds
Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash.

A group of birds is called a flock. Birds in a flock belong to the same species and move together in a coordinated fashion. Flocking has various benefits for different species. It helps to protect most species against predators. Flocking helps them stay alert, as they can all look in different directions. A predator could become distracted or confused when they see a flock swirling around, making it difficult to target one prey.  

For other species, like the geese, flocking provides additional benefits. The geese's V formation helps them reduce flying energy. When a bird in front flaps its wings, the bird at the back benefits from it, feeling the impact of the air. This is useful when a bird is injured or smaller in size. 

Quiz: What bird can be found in every continent except Antarctica? 

The peregrine falcon is found on every continent except Antarctica. It lives in wide-open spaces and can be found everywhere, including deserts. The peregrine falcon can also live on bridges and skyscrapers6

Interesting Bird Facts 

6. Birds evolved from dinosaurs. 

The tale of dinosaurs' disappearance is interesting and mysterious. However, what they left behind is even more interesting. Birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs called Theropods, the same one that the famous Tyrannosaurus rex belonged to. 

The earliest known bird is the Archaeopteryx, which lived around 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. These birds looked like small feathered dinosaurs, and they even had teeth. However, scientists believe these birds lost all their teeth and evolved beaks. 

7. Some birds can mimic human speech. 

Major Mitchell Cockatoo Speek
Photo by Chris Charles on Unsplash

Birds like parrots can mimic human speech. The African Gray Parrot is the most talkative bird and also one of the most intelligent birds. One parrot could mimic hundreds of words thanks to its significant mental capacity. Research reveals that these birds can mimic words and use these words to communicate with their owners2

Oddly, ravens in the wild can mimic the sounds of their predators to attract them to carcasses they cannot break open. Some ravens can also mimic human speech and sounds from their environment. These birds surpass other birds' intelligence, having the mental and emotional capacity of a 5-year-old human child. 

8. The ostrich has the largest eyes of any land animal.

Ostrich with big eyes
Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash.

When an ostrich looks at you, avoiding eye contact is difficult. The Ostrich has the largest eyes of any land animal. The bird’s eyes are bigger than its brain and five times bigger than the eyes of humans. 

The ostrich is also the biggest bird in the world. This flightless bird is famous for its long neck and remarkable running prowess. Its large eyes and powerful legs help it run away from predators in the wild. The Ostrich, the world's largest bird, also lays the world’s largest bird egg, which can weigh as much as 2.5kg.

9. Some birds sleep with one eye open.

Ducks have a single-brain sleeping pattern; half of their brain sleeps while the other half stays awake and active. When ducks sleep in a group, the ducks on the outer rim sleep with one eye open and alert for predators within their vicinity. 

Mallard ducks display a more erratic sleeping behavior. They sleep with one eye open and one leg on the water. They do this to conserve heat while they roost on water. 

Related: 13 Interesting Duck Facts

10. Hoatzin chicks have claws on their wings.

The young hoatzins, or stink birds, have two claws on their wings. They use these claws to climb tree branches and pull themselves out of the water. They also use their claws to hide from danger. When faced with a threat, the young hoatzin jumps from its nest and into the water. They then use their claws to get themselves on land. Once the coast is clear, they climb to a tree branch with their claws. 

11. The wandering albatross can sleep flying. 

Albatrosses are among the biggest seabirds in the world, with the longest wingspan of any bird. They can soar effortlessly in the sky for hours at a stretch without flapping their wings. They do this by harnessing wind energy under their wings. They can also go hundreds of miles feeding on fish and squid. Interestingly, young Albatrosses can spend years of their lives at sea without touching land. 

Even more fascinating is that this bird can sleep while flying, however, only for a few seconds.

12. There's only one poisonous bird.

Did you know that some birds can be as deadly as they are beautiful? The pitohuis, native to Papua New Guinea, is the world’s only known poisonous bird.

Among these, the Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) is particularly notorious for its toxic feathers and skin. Their poison, a potent neurotoxin called batrachotoxin, is the same found in Colombia’s poison dart frogs. This toxin is a powerful defense mechanism against predators, causing numbness and tingling to potential threats that dare to touch or ingest them.

13. Penguins can jump as high as 9 feet.

Penguins
Photo by Hubert Neufeld on Unsplash.

A penguin walks upright. They spend most of their time at sea and are fast swimmers. They are also the only birds that cannot fly. However, they are excellent jumpers.

A penguin can jump as high as 9 feet from the sea onto the shore. As they approach the water, penguins can sometimes jump to propel themselves into the water faster. They can also jump out of the water and on land by swimming super fast. 

These beautiful creatures come in a black-and-white color that acts as camouflage. Thanks to the spines around their mouth, these creatures can also swallow many fish in one day, which guides the fish down their throat.

Related: Read up on baby penguins and some super cute photos!

14. Crows can recognize human faces.

You may not want to pick a fight with crows. Crows that belong to the raven family are incredibly intelligent birds. They can recognize the faces of humans and even navigate human environments. They even mourn the death of their family. 

Quiz: Which is the fastest bird in the world? 

The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird, with a jaw-dropping flight speed of more than 185 miles per hour when diving5. However, these wild birds aren’t the top ten fastest on a level flight. The spine-tailed swift flies faster at over 100km per hour on level flight. 

15. Birds communicate with color and sound 

You will no doubt hear the squeaking or whistling sounds of birds as you stroll through a park or natural environment. That is the sound of birds communicating with one another. Communication sounds include squeaks, singing, whistles, gurgles, warbles, trills, rattles, and many other bird sounds. 

Some birds also communicate using non-vocal methods. You may see a bird beating the air with its wings, which is essential to establishing a territory. The Wilson’s snipe bird spreads its special tail feathers as it takes a downward dive. It beats its wings, gathering air within its feathers to create a winnowing sound. The snipe does this during courtship. 

Birds communicate not only through sounds; they also use visual displays. For blackbirds, male birds puff up their feathers and show off their colorful shoulders. Female birds select their mates based on how colorful or attractive the male bird appears. 

So why do birds communicate? Birds communicate to establish territory, find food to eat, call on their mate, signal the presence of danger, and other reasons. 

Did you know that the bird that can say the most human words is the African Grey Parrot? Researchers have found it can learn as many as 800 words

16. Birds have a high metabolic rate 

Birds use energy at high levels and have high metabolic rates. However, passerines possess a higher metabolic rate than non-passerines. 

One indicator of metabolic rates is heart rate. When in full flight, the hummingbird can have a heartbeat that measures up to 1260 beats per minute. The bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world, has the highest metabolic rate. 

17. Birds do not have teeth 

Although birds evolved from dinosaurs that had teeth, birds do not have teeth. They have ridges that help them grip their food. Most birds do not hunt for prey and so do not need teeth. Birds that eat insects, like worms and ants, and small animals use their beaks to grab and swallow their meal. 

So, how do birds eat? They swallow food whole. A muscular organ in their stomach called the gizzard grounds the food for digestion.

18. Bird courtship lasts longer than copulation.

Peacock
Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash.

A pair of birds can take longer in courtship than the act of copulation. In the bird world, courtship behavior starts with claiming territory and wooing a prospective mate using visual and auditory displays like dances, songs, and spectacular flights. Male birds show off their health and strength to a female bird, trying to convince her that they are the best mates. 

Once the female bird accepts the invitation, mating takes place. The male bird takes a position on top of the female bird. The female then exposes her cloaca for easy penetration. This takes only a few seconds. The birds may mate several times during their mating period. This could take a week or more.

Bird species like kiwis, ostriches, ducks, swans, and geese do not have a cloaca but have a penis instead. After mating, the birds stay around to nest and grow their young.

Read more: How do Birds Mate?

19. Birds play with one another.

Birds like crows and ravens love to play. Ravens also point their beaks at other birds to grab their attention. They stick with family and friends and play with other ravens, humans, and other animal species. They express various emotions, from happiness to surprise and even rage. They mate for life and live together in pairs.  

Environmental Facts About Birds

20. Birds play a significant role in our ecosystem.

Birds act as pollinators, transferring seeds and nutrients as they fly from one region to another. They also play a significant role in agricultural production. They eat unwanted pests on livestock and crops, which helps prevent crop depletion and pest outbreaks. 

21. Bird poop acts as an important fertilizer 

Gannet Colony
Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash.

Bird poop plays a major role in spreading nutrients. Seabirds, in particular, contribute to this. After spending months eating food like fish and insects, they find land to nest in hundreds or thousands of colonies. When full, these birds poop on the shores, concentrating nutrients at their breeding grounds. 

22. Birds are a large part of human history 

Birds have a close relationship with humans. Their eggs are an important human food source. For example, humans consume brown eggs from chickens with red earlobes. Also, the first bird that humans domesticated was the geese. Humans also use bird feathers to adorn hats, caps, pens, and other items. Birds are also popular pets for people all over the world. 

Birds are also an integral part of ancient art and outdoor entertainment. Many people go on birdwatching as a major recreational activity.  

23. Bird extinction rates are increasing 

Birds are going extinct at an increasing rate. Different studies reveal that bird losses are even more rampant in tropical areas due to alterations in their habitat. Since 1500, researchers claim that around 154 bird species have gone extinct. In the last quarter of the 20th century, researchers claim that 18 species have gone extinct3

Environmental changes and catastrophes like fire, storms, and disease have also caused background extinctions. 

Bird extinctions could have far-reaching consequences, including the extinction of plants, the spread of disease, and the loss of pest control. There would also be no long-distance seed dispersal, limiting food production and medicine. 

To reduce this, we can support bird conservation programs by making donations. We can also protect bird habitats and follow proper birding ethics. 

Conclusion

From the smallest hummingbird to the heaviest bird, birds are easily among the most interesting animals in the world. They are intelligent and simply fascinating to watch. They also make wonderful pets. 

With all the wonderful facts about birds, it is clear that seeing them go extinct would be tragic. Thankfully, we can do our part by supporting bird conservation programs and protecting the habitats birds require to survive.

1

American Museum of Natural History (2016, December) New Study Doubles the Estimate of Bird Species in the World

2

Irene. M. Pepperberg (2020, May 19) The Comparative Psychology of Intelligence: Some Thirty Years Later

3

Sodhi, Navjot & Sekercioglu, Cagan & Barlow, Jos & Robinson, Scott. (2011). Tropical Bird Extinctions.

4

Douglas Main (2021, May 17) How many birds are there in the world? National Geographic magazine

5

The Fastest Animals on Earth Encyclopaedia Britannica

6

Peregrine Falcon National Geographic magazine

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Aman Jakhar on Unsplash
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