Long beaks, necks and legs

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Saturday, 16 February 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • Bird species throughout the world have dwindled from 1.5 million to about 10,000 in the last 70 million years.
  • All bird species are born with an "egg tooth", a structure on the beak of a hatching bird that enables it to peck its way out of the egg. The "tooth" drops off after a few weeks.
  • The bones of most birds are hollow and filled with air.
  • With few exceptions, birds do not sing when they are on the ground. They only sing when standing on objects off the ground or while flying.
  • In female birds only the left ovary is functional during breeding season.
  • A bird's heart has four chambers.
  • Woodpeckers have sharp-chisel like bills for drilling into wood.
  • Woodpeckers have stiff tail feathers that act as a brace for moving along vertical tree trunks.
  • Woodpeckers have two toes pointing forward and one or two toes pointing to the side or slightly backward, enabling them to grip a tree trunk surface with opposable toes.
  • The yellow-tufted woodpecker has a resilient sharp bill used to chisel out holes and a barbed tongue that helps it eat wood-boring insects.
  • The red-cockaded woodpecker uses living trees as a nesting site. Also unique among woodpeckers, this species lives in colonies.
  • The largest woodpecker is the Mexican Imperial Woodpecker and it has a 58 cm bill.
  • The black skimmer skims the surface of the water in search of fish. The lower mandible of the skimmer's beak is longer than the upper, enabling it to scoop up fish and crustaceans for a meal.
  • Fossilised flamingo footprints, estimated to be seven million years old, have been found in the Andes mountains.
  • Fossil evidence indicates that the group from which flamingos evolved is very old and existed about 30 million years ago, before many other avian orders had evolved.
  • Flamingo's knees are located close to the body and are not externally visible, while their ankles are located about halfway up the leg, making their long legs appear to bend backwards.
  • Flamingos' feather colouration comes from a diet in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments found in the algae and various insects that make up the staples of a flamingo's diet. Flamingo feathers lose their colour once they have been molted or discarded by the bird.
  • The flamingo neck is long and sinuous, with 19 vertebrae, allowing for maximum movement or twisting.
  • Flamingos spend about 15 to 30 percent of their time during the day preening with their bills. An oil gland near the base of the tail secretes oil that the flamingo distributes throughout its feathers for waterproofing.

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