Birds, also known as Aves, are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the world's most numerically-successful class of tetrapods, with approximately ten thousand living species, more than half of these being passerines, sometimes known as perching birds. Birds have which are more or less developed depending on the species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in flightless birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species of birds. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.
The fossil record demonstrates that birds are modern feathered dinosaurs, having evolved from earlier feathered dinosaurs within the theropod group, which are traditionally placed within the saurischian dinosaurs. The closest living relatives of birds are the crocodilians. Primitive bird-like dinosaurs that lie outside class Aves proper, in the broader group Avialae, have been found dating back to the mid-Jurassic period, around 170 million years ago. Many of these early "stem-birds", such as Archaeopteryx, retained primitive characteristics such as teeth and long bony tails. DNA-based evidence finds that birds diversified dramatically around the time of the Cretaceous–Palaeogene extinction event 66 million years ago, which killed off the pterosaurs and all the non-avian dinosaur lineages. But birds, especially those in the southern continents, survived this event and then migrated to other parts of the world while diversifying during periods of global cooling. This makes them the sole surviving dinosaurs according to cladistics.
Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animals; several bird species make and use tools, and many social species pass on knowledge across generations, which is considered a form of culture. Many species annually migrate great distances. Birds are social, communicating with visual signals, calls, and bird songs, and participating in such social behaviours as cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird species are socially monogamous (referring to social living arrangement, distinct from genetic monogamy), usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, but rarely for life. Other species have breeding systems that are polygynous (arrangement of one male with many females) or, rarely, polyandrous (arrangement of one female with many males). Birds produce offspring by laying eggs which are fertilised through sexual reproduction. They are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching. Some birds, such as hens, lay eggs even when not fertilised, though unfertilised eggs do not produce offspring.
Many species of birds are economically important as food for human consumption and raw material in manufacturing, with domesticated and undomesticated birds (poultry and game) being important sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Songbirds, parrots, and other species are popular as pets. Guano (bird excrement) is harvested for use as a fertiliser. Birds prominently figure throughout human culture. About 120–130 species have become extinct due to human activity since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then. Human activity threatens about 1,200 bird species with extinction, though efforts are underway to protect them. Recreational birdwatching is an important part of the ecotourism industry.
|Examples of various avian orders.
Row 1: Red-crested turaco, shoebill, white-tailed tropicbird
|Extant Orders and temporal range|
* Infraclass Palaeognathae
The first classification of birds was developed by Francis Willughby and John Ray in their 1676 volume Ornithologiae. Carl Linnaeus modified that work in 1758 to devise the taxonomic classification system currently in use. Birds are categorised as the biological class Aves in Linnaean taxonomy. Phylogenetic taxonomy places Aves in the dinosaur clade Theropoda.
Aves and a sister group, the order Crocodilia, contain the only living representatives of the reptile clade Archosauria. During the late 1990s, Aves was most commonly defined phylogenetically as all descendants of the most recent common ancestor of modern birds and Archaeopteryx lithographica. However, an earlier definition proposed by Jacques Gauthier gained wide currency in the 21st century, and is used by many scientists including adherents of the Phylocode system. Gauthier defined Aves to include only the crown group of the set of modern birds. This was done by excluding most groups known only from fossils, and assigning them, instead, to the Avialae, in part to avoid the uncertainties about the placement of Archaeopteryx in relation to animals traditionally thought of as theropod dinosaurs.
Gauthier identified four different definitions for the same biological name "Aves", which is a problem. Gauthier proposed to reserve the term Aves only for the crown group consisting of the last common ancestor of all living birds and all of its descendants, which corresponds to meaning number 4 below. He assigned other names to the other groups.
|The birds' phylogenetic relationships to major living reptile groups.|
Under the fourth definition Archaeopteryx is an avialan, and not a member of Aves. Gauthier's proposals have been adopted by many researchers in the field of palaeontology and bird evolution, though the exact definitions applied have been inconsistent. Avialae, initially proposed to replace the traditional fossil content of Aves, is often used synonymously with the vernacular term "bird" by these researchers.
Most researchers define Avialae as branch-based clade, though definitions vary. Many authors have used a definition similar to "all theropods closer to birds than to Deinonychus." Avialae is also occasionally defined as an apomorphy-based clade (that is, one based on physical characteristics). Jacques Gauthier, who named Avialae in 1986, re-defined it in 2001 as all dinosaurs that possessed feathered wings used in flapping flight, and the birds that descended from them.
|Cladogram following the results of a phylogenetic study by Cau et al., 2015.|
Based on fossil and biological evidence, most scientists accept that birds are a specialised subgroup of theropod dinosaurs, and more specifically, they are members of Maniraptora, a group of theropods which includes dromaeosaurs and oviraptorids, among others. As scientists have discovered more theropods closely related to birds, the previously clear distinction between non-birds and birds has become blurred. Recent discoveries in the Liaoning Province of northeast China, which demonstrate many small theropod feathered dinosaurs, contribute to this ambiguity.
The consensus view in contemporary palaeontology is that the flying theropods, or avialans, are the closest relatives of the deinonychosaurs, which include dromaeosaurids and troodontids. Together, these form a group called Paraves. Some basal members of this group, such as Microraptor, have features which may have enabled them to glide or fly. The most basal deinonychosaurs were very small. This evidence raises the possibility that the ancestor of all paravians may have been arboreal, have been able to glide, or both. Unlike Archaeopteryx and the non-avialan feathered dinosaurs, who primarily ate meat, recent studies suggest that the first avialans were omnivores.
The Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx is well known as one of the first transitional fossils to be found, and it provided support for the theory of evolution in the late 19th century. Archaeopteryx was the first fossil to display both clearly traditional reptilian characteristics: teeth, clawed fingers, and a long, lizard-like tail, as well as wings with flight feathers similar to those of modern birds. It is not considered a direct ancestor of birds, though it is possibly closely related to the true ancestor.
|Cladogram following the results of a phylogenetic study by Cau et al., 2015.|
The earliest known avialan fossils come from the Tiaojishan Formation of China, which has been dated to the late Jurassic period (Oxfordian stage), about 160 million years ago. The avialan species from this time period include Anchiornis huxleyi, Xiaotingia zhengi, and Aurornis xui.
The well-known early avialan, Archaeopteryx, dates from slightly later Jurassic rocks (about 155 million years old) from Germany. Many of these early avialans shared unusual anatomical features that may be ancestral to modern birds, but were later lost during bird evolution. These features include enlarged claws on the second toe which may have been held clear of the ground in life, and long feathers or "hind wings" covering the hind limbs and feet, which may have been used in aerial maneuvering.
Avialans diversified into a wide variety of forms during the Cretaceous Period. Many groups retained primitive characteristics, such as clawed wings and teeth, though the latter were lost independently in a number of avialan groups, including modern birds (Aves). While the earliest forms, such as Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis, retained the long bony tails of their ancestors, the tails of more advanced avialans were shortened with the advent of the pygostyle bone in the group Pygostylia. In the late Cretaceous, about 100 million years ago, the ancestors of all modern birds evolved a more open pelvis, allowing them to lay larger eggs compared to body size. Around 95 million years ago, they evolved a better sense of smell.
|Mesozoic bird phylogeny simplified after Wang et al., 2015's phylogenetic analysis.|
The first large, diverse lineage of short-tailed avialans to evolve were the enantiornithes, or "opposite birds", so named because the construction of their shoulder bones was in reverse to that of modern birds. Enantiornithes occupied a wide array of ecological niches, from sand-probing shorebirds and fish-eaters to tree-dwelling forms and seed-eaters. While they were the dominant group of avialans during the Cretaceous period, enantiornithes became extinct along with many other dinosaur groups at the end of the Mesozoic era.
Many species of the second major avialan lineage to diversify, the Euornithes (meaning "true birds", because they include the ancestors of modern birds), were semi-aquatic and specialised in eating fish and other small aquatic organisms. Unlike the enantiornithes, which dominated land-based and arboreal habitats, most early euornithes lacked perching adaptations and seem to have included shorebird-like species, waders, and swimming and diving species.
The latter included the superficially gull-like Ichthyornis and the Hesperornithiformes, which became so well adapted to hunting fish in marine environments that they lost the ability to fly and became primarily aquatic. The early euornithes also saw the development of many traits associated with modern birds, like strongly keeled breastbones, toothless, beaked portions of their jaws (though most non-avian euornithes retained teeth in other parts of the jaws). Euornithes also included the first avialans to develop true pygostyle and a fully mobile fan of tail feathers, which may have replaced the "hind wing" as the primary mode of aerial maneuverability and braking in flight.
A study on mosaic evolution in the avian skull found that the last common ancestor of all neornithines might have had a beak similar to that of the modern hook-billed vanga and a skull similar to that of the Eurasian golden oriole. As both species are small aerial and canopy foraging omnivores, a similar ecological niche was inferred for this hypothetical ancestor.
|Basal divergences of modern birds|
based on Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy
All modern birds lie within the crown group Aves (alternately Neornithes), which has two subdivisions: the Palaeognathae, which includes the flightless ratites (such as the ostriches) and the weak-flying tinamous, and the extremely diverse Neognathae, containing all other birds. These two subdivisions are often given the rank of superorder, although Livezey and Zusi assigned them "cohort" rank. Depending on the taxonomic viewpoint, the number of known living bird species varies anywhere from 9,800 to 10,050.
The discovery of Vegavis, a late Cretaceous member of the Anatidae, proved that the diversification of modern birds started before the Cenozoic. The affinities of an earlier fossil, the possible galliform Austinornis lentus, dated to about 85 million years ago, are still too controversial to provide a fossil evidence of modern bird diversification.
Most studies agree on a Cretaceous age for the most recent common ancestor of modern birds but estimates range from the Middle Cretaceous to the latest Late Cretaceous. Similarly, there is no agreement on whether most of the early diversification of modern birds occurred before or after the Cretaceous–Palaeogene extinction event. This disagreement is in part caused by a divergence in the evidence; most molecular dating studies suggests a Cretaceous radiation, while fossil evidence points to a Cenozoic radiation (the so-called 'rocks' versus 'clocks' controversy). Previous attempts to reconcile molecular and fossil evidence have proved controversial, but more recent estimates, using a more comprehensive sample of fossils and a new way of calibrating molecular clocks, showed that while modern birds originated early in the Late Cretaceous, a pulse of diversification in all major groups occurred around the Cretaceous–Palaeogene extinction event.
The classification of birds is a contentious issue. Sibley and Ahlquist's Phylogeny and Classification of Birds (1990) is a landmark work on the classification of birds, although it is frequently debated and constantly revised. Most evidence seems to suggest the assignment of orders is accurate, but scientists disagree about the relationships between the orders themselves; evidence from modern bird anatomy, fossils and DNA have all been brought to bear on the problem, but no strong consensus has emerged. More recently, new fossil and molecular evidence is providing an increasingly clear picture of the evolution of modern bird orders.
Birds live and breed in most terrestrial habitats and on all seven continents, reaching their southern extreme in the snow petrel's breeding colonies up to 440 kilometres (270 mi) inland in Antarctica. The highest bird diversity occurs in tropical regions. It was earlier thought that this high diversity was the result of higher speciation rates in the tropics; however recent studies found higher speciation rates in the high latitudes that were offset by greater extinction rates than in the tropics. Several families of birds have adapted to life both on the world's oceans and in them, with some seabird species coming ashore only to breed and some penguins have been recorded diving up to 300 metres (980 ft) deep.
Many bird species have established breeding populations in areas to which they have been introduced by humans. Some of these introductions have been deliberate; the ring-necked pheasant, for example, has been introduced around the world as a game bird. Others have been accidental, such as the establishment of wild monk parakeets in several North American cities after their escape from captivity. Some species, including cattle egret, yellow-headed caracara and galah, have spread naturally far beyond their original ranges as agricultural practices created suitable new habitat.
The skeleton consists of very lightweight bones. They have large air-filled cavities (called pneumatic cavities) which connect with the respiratory system. The skull bones in adults are fused and do not show cranial sutures. The orbits are large and separated by a bony septum. The spine has cervical, thoracic, lumbar and caudal regions with the number of cervical (neck) vertebrae highly variable and especially flexible, but movement is reduced in the anterior thoracic vertebrae and absent in the later vertebrae. The last few are fused with the pelvis to form the synsacrum. The ribs are flattened and the sternum is keeled for the attachment of flight muscles except in the flightless bird orders. The forelimbs are modified into wings. The wings are more or less developed depending on the species; the only known groups that lost their wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds.
Like the reptiles, birds are primarily uricotelic, that is, their kidneys extract nitrogenous waste from their bloodstream and excrete it as uric acid instead of urea or ammonia through the ureters into the intestine. Birds do not have a urinary bladder or external urethral opening and (with exception of the ostrich) uric acid is excreted along with faeces as a semisolid waste. However, birds such as hummingbirds can be facultatively ammonotelic, excreting most of the nitrogenous wastes as ammonia. They also excrete creatine, rather than creatinine like mammals. This material, as well as the output of the intestines, emerges from the bird's cloaca. The cloaca is a multi-purpose opening: waste is expelled through it, most birds mate by joining cloaca, and females lay eggs from it. In addition, many species of birds regurgitate pellets.
Males within Palaeognathae (with the exception of the kiwis), the Anseriformes (with the exception of screamers), and in rudimentary forms in Galliformes (but fully developed in Cracidae) possess a penis, which is never present in Neoaves. The length is thought to be related to sperm competition. When not copulating, it is hidden within the proctodeum compartment within the cloaca, just inside the vent. The digestive system of birds is unique, with a crop for storage and a gizzard that contains swallowed stones for grinding food to compensate for the lack of teeth. Most birds are highly adapted for rapid digestion to aid with flight. Some migratory birds have adapted to use protein from many parts of their bodies, including protein from the intestines, as additional energy during migration.
Birds have one of the most complex respiratory systems of all animal groups. Upon inhalation, 75% of the fresh air bypasses the lungs and flows directly into a posterior air sac which extends from the lungs and connects with air spaces in the bones and fills them with air. The other 25% of the air goes directly into the lungs. When the bird exhales, the used air flows out of the lungs and the stored fresh air from the posterior air sac is simultaneously forced into the lungs. Thus, a bird's lungs receive a constant supply of fresh air during both inhalation and exhalation. Sound production is achieved using the syrinx, a muscular chamber incorporating multiple tympanic membranes which diverges from the lower end of the trachea; the trachea being elongated in some species, increasing the volume of vocalisations and the perception of the bird's size.
In birds, the main arteries taking blood away from the heart originate from the right aortic arch (or pharyngeal arch), unlike in the mammals where the left aortic arch forms this part of the aorta. The postcava receives blood from the limbs via the renal portal system. Unlike in mammals, the circulating red blood cells in birds retain their nucleus.
The avian circulatory system is driven by a four-chambered, myogenic heart contained in a fibrous pericardial sac. This pericardial sac is filled with a serous fluid for lubrication. The heart itself is divided into a right and left half, each with an atrium and ventricle. The atrium and ventricles of each side are separated by atrioventricular valves which prevent back flow from one chamber to the next during contraction. Being myogenic, the heart's pace is maintained by pacemaker cells found in the sinoatrial node, located on the right atrium.
The sinoatrial node uses calcium to cause a depolarising signal transduction pathway from the atrium through right and left atrioventricular bundle which communicates contraction to the ventricles. The avian heart also consists of muscular arches that are made up of thick bundles of muscular layers. Much like a mammalian heart, the avian heart is composed of endocardial, myocardial and epicardial layers. The atrium walls tend to be thinner than the ventricle walls, due to the intense ventricular contraction used to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. Avian hearts are generally larger than mammalian hearts when compared to body mass. This adaptation allows more blood to be pumped to meet the high metabolic need associated with flight.
Birds have a very efficient system for diffusing oxygen into the blood; birds have a ten times greater surface area to gas exchange volume than mammals. As a result, birds have more blood in their capillaries per unit of volume of lung than a mammal. The arteries are composed of thick elastic muscles to withstand the pressure of the ventricular constriction, and become more rigid as they move away from the heart. Blood moves through the arteries, which undergo vasoconstriction, and into arterioles which act as a transportation system to distribute primarily oxygen as well as nutrients to all tissues of the body. As the arterioles move away from the heart and into individual organs and tissues they are further divided to increase surface area and slow blood flow. Blood travels through the arterioles and moves into the capillaries where gas exchange can occur.
Capillaries are organized into capillary beds in tissues; it is here that blood exchanges oxygen for carbon dioxide waste. In the capillary beds blood flow is slowed to allow maximum diffusion of oxygen into the tissues. Once the blood has become deoxygenated it travels through venules then veins and back to the heart. Veins, unlike arteries, are thin and rigid as they do not need to withstand extreme pressure. As blood travels through the venules to the veins a funneling occurs called vasodilation bringing blood back to the heart. Once the blood reaches the heart it moves first into the right atrium, then the right ventricle to be pumped through the lungs for further gas exchange of carbon dioxide waste for oxygen. Oxygenated blood then flows from the lungs through the left atrium to the left ventricle where it is pumped out to the body.
The nervous system is large relative to the bird's size. The most developed part of the brain is the one that controls the flight-related functions, while the cerebellum coordinates movement and the cerebrum controls behaviour patterns, navigation, mating and nest building. Most birds have a poor sense of smell with notable exceptions including kiwis, New World vultures and tubenoses. The avian visual system is usually highly developed. Water birds have special flexible lenses, allowing accommodation for vision in air and water. Some species also have dual fovea. Birds are tetrachromatic, possessing ultraviolet (UV) sensitive cone cells in the eye as well as green, red and blue ones. They also have double cones, likely to mediate achromatic vision.
Many birds show plumage patterns in ultraviolet that are invisible to the human eye; some birds whose sexes appear similar to the naked eye are distinguished by the presence of ultraviolet reflective patches on their feathers. Male blue tits have an ultraviolet reflective crown patch which is displayed in courtship by posturing and raising of their nape feathers. Ultraviolet light is also used in foraging—kestrels have been shown to search for prey by detecting the UV reflective urine trail marks left on the ground by rodents. With the exception of pigeons and a few other species, the eyelids of birds are not used in blinking. Instead the eye is lubricated by the nictitating membrane, a third eyelid that moves horizontally. The nictitating membrane also covers the eye and acts as a contact lens in many aquatic birds. The bird retina has a fan shaped blood supply system called the pecten.
Most birds cannot move their eyes, although there are exceptions, such as the great cormorant. Birds with eyes on the sides of their heads have a wide visual field, while birds with eyes on the front of their heads, such as owls, have binocular vision and can estimate the depth of field. The avian ear lacks external pinnae but is covered by feathers, although in some birds, such as the Asio, Bubo and Otus owls, these feathers form tufts which resemble ears. The inner ear has a cochlea, but it is not spiral as in mammals.
A few species are able to use chemical defences against predators; some Procellariiformes can eject an unpleasant stomach oil against an aggressor, and some species of pitohuis from New Guinea have a powerful neurotoxin in their skin and feathers.
A lack of field observations limit our knowledge, but intraspecific conflicts are known to sometimes result in injury or death. The screamers (Anhimidae), some jacanas (Jacana, Hydrophasianus), the spur-winged goose (Plectropterus), the torrent duck (Merganetta) and nine species of lapwing (Vanellus) use a sharp spur on the wing as a weapon. The steamer ducks (Tachyeres), geese and swans (Anserinae), the solitaire (Pezophaps), sheathbills (Chionis), some guans (Crax) and stone curlews (Burhinus) use a bony knob on the alular metacarpal to punch and hammer opponents. The jacanas Actophilornis and Irediparra have an expanded, blade-like radius. The extinct Xenicibis was unique in having an elongate forelimb and massive hand which likely functioned in combat or defence as a jointed club or flail. Swans, for instance, may strike with the bony spurs and bite when defending eggs or young.
Birds have two sexes: either female or male. The sex of birds is determined by the Z and W sex chromosomes, rather than by the X and Y chromosomes present in mammals. Male birds have two Z chromosomes (ZZ), and female birds have a W chromosome and a Z chromosome (WZ).
In nearly all species of birds, an individual's sex is determined at fertilisation. However, one recent study claimed to demonstrate temperature-dependent sex determination among the Australian brushturkey, for which higher temperatures during incubation resulted in a higher female-to-male sex ratio. This, however, was later proven to not be the case. These birds do not exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination, but temperature-dependent sex mortality.
Feathers are a feature characteristic of birds (though also present in some dinosaurs not currently considered to be true birds). They facilitate flight, provide insulation that aids in thermoregulation, and are used in display, camouflage, and signalling. There are several types of feathers, each serving its own set of purposes. Feathers are epidermal growths attached to the skin and arise only in specific tracts of skin called pterylae. The distribution pattern of these feather tracts (pterylosis) is used in taxonomy and systematics. The arrangement and appearance of feathers on the body, called plumage, may vary within species by age, social status, and sex.
Plumage is regularly moulted; the standard plumage of a bird that has moulted after breeding is known as the "" plumage, or—in the Humphrey-Parkes terminology—"basic" plumage; breeding plumages or variations of the basic plumage are known under the Humphrey-Parkes system as "" plumages. Moulting is annual in most species, although some may have two moults a year, and large birds of prey may moult only once every few years. Moulting patterns vary across species. In passerines, flight feathers are replaced one at a time with the innermost being the first. When the fifth of sixth primary is replaced, the outermost begin to drop. After the innermost tertiaries are moulted, the starting from the innermost begin to drop and this proceeds to the outer feathers (centrifugal moult). The greater primary are moulted in synchrony with the primary that they overlap.
A small number of species, such as ducks and geese, lose all of their flight feathers at once, temporarily becoming flightless. As a general rule, the tail feathers are moulted and replaced starting with the innermost pair. Centripetal moults of tail feathers are however seen in the Phasianidae. The centrifugal moult is modified in the tail feathers of woodpeckers and treecreepers, in that it begins with the second innermost pair of feathers and finishes with the central pair of feathers so that the bird maintains a functional climbing tail. The general pattern seen in passerines is that the primaries are replaced outward, secondaries inward, and the tail from centre outward. Before nesting, the females of most bird species gain a bare brood patch by losing feathers close to the belly. The skin there is well supplied with blood vessels and helps the bird in incubation.
Feathers require maintenance and birds preen or groom them daily, spending an average of around 9% of their daily time on this. The bill is used to brush away foreign particles and to apply waxy secretions from the uropygial gland; these secretions protect the feathers' flexibility and act as an antimicrobial agent, inhibiting the growth of feather-degrading bacteria. This may be supplemented with the secretions of formic acid from ants, which birds receive through a behaviour known as anting, to remove feather parasites.
The scales of birds are composed of the same keratin as beaks, claws, and spurs. They are found mainly on the toes and metatarsus, but may be found further up on the ankle in some birds. Most bird scales do not overlap significantly, except in the cases of kingfishers and woodpeckers. The scales of birds are thought to be homologous to those of reptiles and mammals.
Most birds can fly, which distinguishes them from almost all other vertebrate classes. Flight is the primary means of locomotion for most bird species and is used for searching for food and for escaping from predators. Birds have various adaptations for flight, including a lightweight skeleton, two large flight muscles, the pectoralis (which accounts for 15% of the total mass of the bird) and the supracoracoideus, as well as a modified forelimb (wing) that serves as an aerofoil.
Wing shape and size generally determine a bird's flight style and performance; many birds combine powered, flapping flight with less energy-intensive soaring flight. About 60 extant bird species are flightless, as were many extinct birds. Flightlessness often arises in birds on isolated islands, probably due to limited resources and the absence of land predators. Although flightless, penguins use similar musculature and movements to "fly" through the water, as do auks, shearwaters and dippers.
Most birds are diurnal, but some birds, such as many species of owls and nightjars, are nocturnal or crepuscular (active during twilight hours), and many coastal waders feed when the tides are appropriate, by day or night.
are varied and often include nectar, fruit, plants, seeds, carrion, and various small animals, including other birds. Because birds have no teeth, their digestive system is adapted to process unmasticated food items that are swallowed whole.
Birds that employ many strategies to obtain food or feed on a variety of food items are called generalists, while others that concentrate time and effort on specific food items or have a single strategy to obtain food are considered specialists. Birds' feeding strategies vary by species. Many birds glean for insects, invertebrates, fruit, or seeds. Some hunt insects by suddenly attacking from a branch. Those species that seek pest insects are considered beneficial 'biological control agents' and their presence encouraged in biological pest control programmes. Combined, insectivorous birds eat 400–500 million metric tons of arthropods annually.
Nectar feeders such as hummingbirds, sunbirds, lories, and lorikeets amongst others have specially adapted brushy tongues and in many cases bills designed to fit co-adapted flowers. Kiwis and shorebirds with long bills probe for invertebrates; shorebirds' varied bill lengths and feeding methods result in the separation of ecological niches. Loons, diving ducks, penguins and auks pursue their prey underwater, using their wings or feet for propulsion, while aerial predators such as sulids, kingfishers and terns plunge dive after their prey. Flamingos, three species of prion, and some ducks are filter feeders. Geese and dabbling ducks are primarily grazers.
Some species, including frigatebirds, gulls, and skuas, engage in kleptoparasitism, stealing food items from other birds. Kleptoparasitism is thought to be a supplement to food obtained by hunting, rather than a significant part of any species' diet; a study of great frigatebirds stealing from masked boobies estimated that the frigatebirds stole at most 40% of their food and on average stole only 5%. Other birds are scavengers; some of these, like vultures, are specialised carrion eaters, while others, like gulls, corvids, or other birds of prey, are opportunists.
Water is needed by many birds although their mode of excretion and lack of sweat glands reduces the physiological demands. Some desert birds can obtain their water needs entirely from moisture in their food. They may also have other adaptations such as allowing their body temperature to rise, saving on moisture loss from evaporative cooling or panting. Seabirds can drink seawater and have salt glands inside the head that eliminate excess salt out of the nostrils.
Most birds scoop water in their beaks and raise their head to let water run down the throat. Some species, especially of arid zones, belonging to the pigeon, finch, mousebird, button-quail and bustard families are capable of sucking up water without the need to tilt back their heads. Some desert birds depend on water sources and sandgrouse are particularly well known for their daily congregations at waterholes. Nesting sandgrouse and many plovers carry water to their young by wetting their belly feathers. Some birds carry water for chicks at the nest in their crop or regurgitate it along with food. The pigeon family, flamingos and penguins have adaptations to produce a nutritive fluid called crop milk that they provide to their chicks.
Feathers being critical to the survival of a bird, require maintenance. Apart from physical wear and tear, feathers face the onslaught of fungi, ectoparasitic feather mites and birdlice. The physical condition of feathers are maintained by often with the application of secretions from the . Birds also bathe in water or dust themselves. While some birds dip into shallow water, more aerial species may make aerial dips into water and arboreal species often make use of dew or rain that collect on leaves. Birds of arid regions make use of loose soil to dust-bathe. A behaviour termed as anting in which the bird encourages ants to run through their plumage is also thought to help them reduce the ectoparasite load in feathers. Many species will spread out their wings and expose them to direct sunlight and this too is thought to help in reducing fungal and ectoparasitic activity that may lead to feather damage.
Many bird species migrate to take advantage of global differences of seasonal temperatures, therefore optimising availability of food sources and breeding habitat. These migrations vary among the different groups. Many landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds undertake annual long distance migrations, usually triggered by the length of daylight as well as weather conditions. These birds are characterised by a breeding season spent in the temperate or polar regions and a non-breeding season in the tropical regions or opposite hemisphere. Before migration, birds substantially increase body fats and reserves and reduce the size of some of their organs.
Migration is highly demanding energetically, particularly as birds need to cross deserts and oceans without refuelling. 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), although 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). Other seabirds disperse after breeding, travelling widely but having no set migration route. Albatrosses nesting in the Southern Ocean often undertake circumpolar trips between breeding seasons.
Some bird species undertake shorter migrations, travelling only as far as is required to avoid bad weather or obtain food. Irruptive species such as the boreal finches are one such group and can commonly be found at a location in one year and absent the next. This type of migration is normally associated with food availability. Species may also travel shorter distances over part of their range, with individuals from higher latitudes travelling into the existing range of conspecifics; others undertake partial migrations, where only a fraction of the population, usually females and subdominant males, migrates. Partial migration can form a large percentage of the migration behaviour of birds in some regions; in Australia, surveys found that 44% of non-passerine birds and 32% of passerines were partially migratory.
Altitudinal migration is a form of short distance migration in which birds spend the breeding season at higher altitudes and move to lower ones during suboptimal conditions. It is most often triggered by temperature changes and usually occurs when the normal territories also become inhospitable due to lack of food. Some species may also be nomadic, holding no fixed territory and moving according to weather and food availability. Parrots as a family are overwhelmingly neither migratory nor sedentary but considered to either be dispersive, irruptive, nomadic or undertake small and irregular migrations.
The ability of birds to return to precise locations across vast distances has been known for some time; in an experiment conducted in the 1950s, a Manx shearwater released in Boston in the United States returned to its colony in Skomer, in Wales within 13 days, a distance of 5,150 km (3,200 mi). Birds navigate during migration using a variety of methods. For diurnal migrants, the sun is used to navigate by day, and a stellar compass is used at night. Birds that use the sun compensate for the changing position of the sun during the day by the use of an internal clock. Orientation with the stellar compass depends on the position of the constellations surrounding Polaris. These are backed up in some species by their ability to sense the Earth's geomagnetism through specialised photoreceptors.
Birds communicate using primarily visual and auditory signals. Signals can be interspecific (between species) and intraspecific (within species).
Birds sometimes use plumage to assess and assert social dominance, to display breeding condition in sexually selected species, or to make threatening displays, as in the sunbittern's mimicry of a large predator to ward off hawks and protect young chicks. Variation in plumage also allows for the identification of birds, particularly between species.
Visual communication among birds may also involve ritualised displays, which have developed from non-signalling actions such as preening, the adjustments of feather position, pecking, or other behaviour. These displays may signal aggression or submission or may contribute to the formation of pair-bonds. The most elaborate displays occur during courtship, where "dances" are often formed from complex combinations of many possible component movements; males' breeding success may depend on the quality of such displays.
Bird calls and songs, which are produced in the syrinx, are the major means by which birds communicate with sound. This communication can be very complex; some species can operate the two sides of the syrinx independently, allowing the simultaneous production of two different songs. Calls are used for a variety of purposes, including mate attraction, evaluation of potential mates, bond formation, the claiming and maintenance of territories, the identification of other individuals (such as when parents look for chicks in colonies or when mates reunite at the start of breeding season), and the warning of other birds of potential predators, sometimes with specific information about the nature of the threat. Some birds also use mechanical sounds for auditory communication. The Coenocorypha snipes of New Zealand drive air through their feathers, woodpeckers drum for long distance communication, and palm cockatoos use tools to drum.
While some birds are essentially territorial or live in small family groups, other birds may form large flocks. The principal benefits of flocking are safety in numbers and increased foraging efficiency. Defence against predators is particularly important in closed habitats like forests, where ambush predation is common and multiple eyes can provide a valuable early warning system. This has led to the development of many mixed-species feeding flocks, which are usually composed of small numbers of many species; these flocks provide safety in numbers but increase potential competition for resources. Costs of flocking include bullying of socially subordinate birds by more dominant birds and the reduction of feeding efficiency in certain cases.
Birds sometimes also form associations with non-avian species. Plunge-diving seabirds associate with dolphins and tuna, which push shoaling fish towards the surface. Hornbills have a mutualistic relationship with dwarf mongooses, in which they forage together and warn each other of nearby birds of prey and other predators.
The high metabolic rates of birds during the active part of the day is supplemented by rest at other times. Sleeping birds often use a type of sleep known as vigilant sleep, where periods of rest are interspersed with quick eye-opening "peeks", allowing them to be sensitive to disturbances and enable rapid escape from threats. Swifts are believed to be able to sleep in flight and radar observations suggest that they orient themselves to face the wind in their roosting flight. It has been suggested that there may be certain kinds of sleep which are possible even when in flight.
Some birds have also demonstrated the capacity to fall into slow-wave sleep one hemisphere of the brain at a time. The birds tend to exercise this ability depending upon its position relative to the outside of the flock. This may allow the eye opposite the sleeping hemisphere to remain vigilant for predators by viewing the outer margins of the flock. This adaptation is also known from marine mammals. Communal roosting is common because it lowers the loss of body heat and decreases the risks associated with predators. Roosting sites are often chosen with regard to thermoregulation and safety.
Many sleeping birds bend their heads over their backs and tuck their bills in their back feathers, although others place their beaks among their breast feathers. Many birds rest on one leg, while some may pull up their legs into their feathers, especially in cold weather. Perching birds have a tendon locking mechanism that helps them hold on to the perch when they are asleep. Many ground birds, such as quails and pheasants, roost in trees. A few parrots of the genus Loriculus roost hanging upside down. Some hummingbirds go into a nightly state of torpor accompanied with a reduction of their metabolic rates. This physiological adaptation shows in nearly a hundred other species, including owlet-nightjars, nightjars, and woodswallows. One species, the common poorwill, even enters a state of hibernation. Birds do not have sweat glands, but they may cool themselves by moving to shade, standing in water, panting, increasing their surface area, fluttering their throat or by using special behaviours like urohidrosis to cool themselves.
Ninety-five per cent of bird species are socially monogamous. These species pair for at least the length of the breeding season or—in some cases—for several years or until the death of one mate. Monogamy allows for both paternal care and biparental care, which is especially important for species in which females require males' assistance for successful brood-rearing. Among many socially monogamous species, extra-pair copulation (infidelity) is common. Such behaviour typically occurs between dominant males and females paired with subordinate males, but may also be the result of forced copulation in ducks and other anatids.
Female birds have sperm storage mechanisms that allow sperm from males to remain viable long after copulation, a hundred days in some species. Sperm from multiple males may compete through this mechanism. For females, possible benefits of extra-pair copulation include getting better genes for her offspring and insuring against the possibility of infertility in her mate. Males of species that engage in extra-pair copulations will closely guard their mates to ensure the parentage of the offspring that they raise.
Other mating systems, including polygyny, polyandry, polygamy, polygynandry, and promiscuity, also occur. Polygamous breeding systems arise when females are able to raise broods without the help of males. Some species may use more than one system depending on the circumstances.
Breeding usually involves some form of courtship display, typically performed by the male. Most displays are rather simple and involve some type of song. Some displays, however, are quite elaborate. Depending on the species, these may include wing or tail drumming, dancing, aerial flights, or communal lekking. Females are generally the ones that drive partner selection, although in the polyandrous phalaropes, this is reversed: plainer males choose brightly coloured females. Courtship feeding, billing and are commonly performed between partners, generally after the birds have paired and mated.
Many birds actively defend a territory from others of the same species during the breeding season; maintenance of territories protects the food source for their chicks. Species that are unable to defend feeding territories, such as seabirds and swifts, often breed in colonies instead; this is thought to offer protection from predators. Colonial breeders defend small nesting sites, and competition between and within species for nesting sites can be intense.
All birds lay amniotic eggs with hard shells made mostly of calcium carbonate. Hole and burrow nesting species tend to lay white or pale eggs, while open nesters lay camouflaged eggs. There are many exceptions to this pattern, however; the ground-nesting nightjars have pale eggs, and camouflage is instead provided by their plumage. Species that are victims of brood parasites have varying egg colours to improve the chances of spotting a parasite's egg, which forces female parasites to match their eggs to those of their hosts.
Bird eggs are usually laid in a nest. Most species create somewhat elaborate nests, which can be cups, domes, plates, beds scrapes, mounds, or burrows. Some bird nests, however, are extremely primitive; albatross nests are no more than a scrape on the ground. Most birds build nests in sheltered, hidden areas to avoid predation, but large or colonial birds—which are more capable of defence—may build more open nests. During nest construction, some species seek out plant matter from plants with parasite-reducing toxins to improve chick survival, and feathers are often used for nest insulation. Some bird species have no nests; the cliff-nesting common guillemot lays its eggs on bare rock, and male emperor penguins keep eggs between their body and feet. The absence of nests is especially prevalent in ground-nesting species where the newly hatched young are precocial.
Incubation, which optimises temperature for chick development, usually begins after the last egg has been laid. In monogamous species incubation duties are often shared, whereas in polygamous species one parent is wholly responsible for incubation. Warmth from parents passes to the eggs through brood patches, areas of bare skin on the abdomen or breast of the incubating birds. Incubation can be an energetically demanding process; adult albatrosses, for instance, lose as much as 83 grams (2.9 oz) of body weight per day of incubation. The warmth for the incubation of the eggs of megapodes comes from the sun, decaying vegetation or volcanic sources. Incubation periods range from 10 days (in woodpeckers, cuckoos and passerine birds) to over 80 days (in albatrosses and kiwis).
|Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)||3||13||2.0||2|
|House sparrow (Passer domesticus)||25||11||4.5||5|
|Greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)||376||20||1.5||4|
|Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)||2,200||39||1.0||2|
|Laysan albatross (Diomedea immutabilis)||3,150||64||1.0||1|
|Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)||4,000||40||1.0||1|
|Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)||4,800||40||1.0||2|
|Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)||6,050||28||1.0||11|
At the time of their hatching, chicks range in development from helpless to independent, depending on their species. Helpless chicks are termed altricial, and tend to be born small, blind, immobile and naked; chicks that are mobile and feathered upon hatching are termed precocial. Altricial chicks need help thermoregulating and must be brooded for longer than precocial chicks. The young of many bird species do not precisely fit into either the precocial or altricial category, having some aspects of each and thus fall somewhere on an "altricial-precocial spectrum". Chicks at neither extreme but favoring one or the other may be termed  or .
The length and nature of parental care varies widely amongst different orders and species. At one extreme, parental care in megapodes ends at hatching; the newly hatched chick digs itself out of the nest mound without parental assistance and can fend for itself immediately. At the other extreme, many seabirds have extended periods of parental care, the longest being that of the great frigatebird, whose chicks take up to six months to fledge and are fed by the parents for up to an additional 14 months. The chick guard stage describes the period of breeding during which one of the adult birds is permanently present at the nest after chicks have hatched. The main purpose of the guard stage is to aid offspring to thermoregulate and protect them from predation.
In some species, both parents care for nestlings and fledglings; in others, such care is the responsibility of only one sex. In some species, other members of the same species—usually close relatives of the breeding pair, such as offspring from previous broods—will help with the raising of the young. Such alloparenting is particularly common among the Corvida, which includes such birds as the true crows, Australian magpie and fairy-wrens, but has been observed in species as different as the rifleman and red kite. Among most groups of animals, male parental care is rare. In birds, however, it is quite common—more so than in any other vertebrate class. Although territory and nest site defence, incubation, and chick feeding are often shared tasks, there is sometimes a division of labour in which one mate undertakes all or most of a particular duty.
The point at which chicks fledge varies dramatically. The chicks of the Synthliboramphus murrelets, like the ancient murrelet, leave the nest the night after they hatch, following their parents out to sea, where they are raised away from terrestrial predators. Some other species, such as ducks, move their chicks away from the nest at an early age. In most species, chicks leave the nest just before, or soon after, they are able to fly. The amount of parental care after fledging varies; albatross chicks leave the nest on their own and receive no further help, while other species continue some supplementary feeding after fledging. Chicks may also follow their parents during their first migration.
Brood parasitism, in which an egg-layer leaves her eggs with another individual's brood, is more common among birds than any other type of organism. After a parasitic bird lays her eggs in another bird's nest, they are often accepted and raised by the host at the expense of the host's own brood. Brood parasites may be either obligate brood parasites, which must lay their eggs in the nests of other species because they are incapable of raising their own young, or non-obligate brood parasites, which sometimes lay eggs in the nests of conspecifics to increase their reproductive output even though they could have raised their own young. One hundred bird species, including honeyguides, icterids, and ducks, are obligate parasites, though the most famous are the cuckoos. Some brood parasites are adapted to hatch before their host's young, which allows them to destroy the host's eggs by pushing them out of the nest or to kill the host's chicks; this ensures that all food brought to the nest will be fed to the parasitic chicks.
Birds have evolved a variety of mating behaviours, with the peacock tail being perhaps the most famous example of sexual selection and the Fisherian runaway. Commonly occurring sexual dimorphisms such as size and colour differences are energetically costly attributes that signal competitive breeding situations. Many types of avian sexual selection have been identified; intersexual selection, also known as female choice; and intrasexual competition, where individuals of the more abundant sex compete with each other for the privilege to mate. Sexually selected traits often evolve to become more pronounced in competitive breeding situations until the trait begins to limit the individual's fitness. Conflicts between an individual fitness and signalling adaptations ensure that sexually selected ornaments such as plumage coloration and courtship behaviour are "honest" traits. Signals must be costly to ensure that only good-quality individuals can present these exaggerated sexual ornaments and behaviours.
Inbreeding causes early death (inbreeding depression) in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata. Embryo survival (that is, hatching success of fertile eggs) was significantly lower for sib-sib mating pairs than for unrelated pairs.
Darwin's finch Geospiza scandens experiences inbreeding depression (reduced survival of offspring) and the magnitude of this effect is influenced by environmental conditions such as low food availability.
Incestuous matings by the purple-crowned fairy wren Malurus coronatus result in severe fitness costs due to inbreeding depression (greater than 30% reduction in hatchability of eggs). Females paired with related males may undertake extra pair matings (see Promiscuity#Other animals for 90% frequency in avian species) that can reduce the negative effects of inbreeding. However, there are ecological and demographic constraints on extra pair matings. Nevertheless, 43% of broods produced by incestuously paired females contained extra pair young.
Inbreeding depression occurs in the great tit (Parus major) when the offspring produced as a result of a mating between close relatives show reduced fitness. In natural populations of Parus major, inbreeding is avoided by dispersal of individuals from their birthplace, which reduces the chance of mating with a close relative.
Southern pied babblers Turdoides bicolor appear to avoid inbreeding in two ways. The first is through dispersal, and the second is by avoiding familiar group members as mates. Although both males and females disperse locally, they move outside the range where genetically related individuals are likely to be encountered. Within their group, individuals only acquire breeding positions when the opposite-sex breeder is unrelated.
Cooperative breeding in birds typically occurs when offspring, usually males, delay dispersal from their natal group in order to remain with the family to help rear younger kin. Female offspring rarely stay at home, dispersing over distances that allow them to breed independently, or to join unrelated groups. In general, inbreeding is avoided because it leads to a reduction in progeny fitness (inbreeding depression) due largely to the homozygous expression of deleterious recessive alleles. Cross-fertilisation between unrelated individuals ordinarily leads to the masking of deleterious recessive alleles in progeny.
Birds occupy a wide range of ecological positions. While some birds are generalists, others are highly specialised in their habitat or food requirements. Even within a single habitat, such as a forest, the niches occupied by different species of birds vary, with some species feeding in the forest canopy, others beneath the canopy, and still others on the forest floor. Forest birds may be insectivores, frugivores, and nectarivores. Aquatic birds generally feed by fishing, plant eating, and piracy or kleptoparasitism. Birds of prey specialise in hunting mammals or other birds, while vultures are specialised scavengers. Avivores are animals that are specialised at preying on birds.
Some nectar-feeding birds are important pollinators, and many frugivores play a key role in seed dispersal. Plants and pollinating birds often coevolve, and in some cases a flower's primary pollinator is the only species capable of reaching its nectar.
Birds are often important to island ecology. Birds have frequently reached islands that mammals have not; on those islands, birds may fulfil ecological roles typically played by larger animals. For example, in New Zealand the moas were important browsers, as are the kereru and kokako today. Today the plants of New Zealand retain the defensive adaptations evolved to protect them from the extinct moa. Nesting seabirds may also affect the ecology of islands and surrounding seas, principally through the concentration of large quantities of guano, which may enrich the local soil and the surrounding seas.
A wide variety of avian ecology field methods, including counts, nest monitoring, and capturing and marking, are used for researching avian ecology.
Since birds are highly visible and common animals, humans have had a relationship with them since the dawn of man. Sometimes, these relationships are mutualistic, like the cooperative honey-gathering among honeyguides and African peoples such as the Borana. Other times, they may be commensal, as when species such as the house sparrow have benefited from human activities. Several bird species have become commercially significant agricultural pests, and some pose an aviation hazard. Human activities can also be detrimental, and have threatened numerous bird species with extinction (hunting, avian lead poisoning, pesticides, roadkill, wind turbine kills and predation by pet cats and dogs are common sources of death for birds).
Birds can act as vectors for spreading diseases such as psittacosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, mycobacteriosis (avian tuberculosis), avian influenza (bird flu), giardiasis, and cryptosporidiosis over long distances. Some of these are zoonotic diseases that can also be transmitted to humans.
Domesticated birds raised for meat and eggs, called poultry, are the largest source of animal protein eaten by humans; in 2003, 76 million tons of poultry and 61 million tons of eggs were produced worldwide. Chickens account for much of human poultry consumption, though domesticated turkeys, ducks, and geese are also relatively common. Many species of birds are also hunted for meat. Bird hunting is primarily a recreational activity except in extremely undeveloped areas. The most important birds hunted in North and South America are waterfowl; other widely hunted birds include pheasants, wild turkeys, quail, doves, partridge, grouse, snipe, and woodcock. Muttonbirding is also popular in Australia and New Zealand. Although some hunting, such as that of muttonbirds, may be sustainable, hunting has led to the extinction or endangerment of dozens of species.
Other commercially valuable products from birds include feathers (especially the down of geese and ducks), which are used as insulation in clothing and bedding, and seabird faeces (guano), which is a valuable source of phosphorus and nitrogen. The War of the Pacific, sometimes called the Guano War, was fought in part over the control of guano deposits.
Birds have been domesticated by humans both as pets and for practical purposes. Colourful birds, such as parrots and mynas, are bred in captivity or kept as pets, a practice that has led to the illegal trafficking of some endangered species. Falcons and cormorants have long been used for hunting and fishing, respectively. Messenger pigeons, used since at least 1 AD, remained important as recently as World War II. Today, such activities are more common either as hobbies, for entertainment and tourism, or for sports such as pigeon racing.
Amateur bird enthusiasts (called birdwatchers, twitchers or, more commonly, birders) number in the millions. Many homeowners erect bird feeders near their homes to attract various species. Bird feeding has grown into a multimillion-dollar industry; for example, an estimated 75% of households in Britain provide food for birds at some point during the winter.
Birds play prominent and diverse roles in religion and mythology. In religion, birds may serve as either messengers or priests and leaders for a deity, such as in the Cult of Makemake, in which the Tangata manu of Easter Island served as chiefs or as attendants, as in the case of Hugin and Munin, the two common ravens who whispered news into the ears of the Norse god Odin. In several civilisations of ancient Italy, particularly Etruscan and Roman religion, priests were involved in augury, or interpreting the words of birds while the "auspex" (from which the word "auspicious" is derived) watched their activities to foretell events.
They may also serve as religious symbols, as when Jonah (Hebrew: יוֹנָה, dove) embodied the fright, passivity, mourning, and beauty traditionally associated with doves. Birds have themselves been deified, as in the case of the common peacock, which is perceived as Mother Earth by the Dravidians of India. In the ancient world, doves were used as symbols of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna (later inown as Ishtar), the Canaanite mother goddess Asherah, and the Greek goddess Aphrodite. In ancient Greece, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patron deity of the city of Athens, had a little owl as her symbol. In religious images preserved from the Inca and Tiwanaku empires, birds are depicted in the process of transgressing boundaries between earthly and underground spiritual realms. Indigenous peoples of the central Andes maintain legends of birds passing to and from metaphysical worlds.
Birds have featured in culture and art since prehistoric times, when they were represented in early cave paintings. Some birds have been perceived as monsters, including the mythological Roc and the Māori's legendary Pouākai, a giant bird capable of snatching humans. Birds were later used as symbols of power, as in the magnificent Peacock Throne of the Mughal and Persian emperors. With the advent of scientific interest in birds, many paintings of birds were commissioned for books.
Among the most famous of these bird artists was John James Audubon, whose paintings of North American birds were a great commercial success in Europe and who later lent his name to the National Audubon Society. Birds are also important figures in poetry; for example, Homer incorporated nightingales into his Odyssey, and Catullus used a sparrow as an erotic symbol in his Catullus 2. The relationship between an albatross and a sailor is the central theme of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which led to the use of the term as a metaphor for a 'burden'. Other English metaphors derive from birds; vulture funds and vulture investors, for instance, take their name from the scavenging vulture.
Perceptions of bird species vary across cultures. Owls are associated with bad luck, witchcraft, and death in parts of Africa, but are regarded as wise across much of Europe. Hoopoes were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt and symbols of virtue in Persia, but were thought of as thieves across much of Europe and harbingers of war in Scandinavia. In heraldry, birds, especially eagles, often appear in coats of arms.
In music, birdsong has influenced composers and musicians in several ways: they can be inspired by birdsong; they can intentionally imitate bird song in a composition, as Vivaldi, Messiaen, and Beethoven did, along with many later composers; they can incorporate recordings of birds into their works, as Ottorino Respighi first did; or like Beatrice Harrison and David Rothenberg, they can duet with birds.
Although human activities have allowed the expansion of a few species, such as the barn swallow and European starling, they have caused population decreases or extinction in many other species. Over a hundred bird species have gone extinct in historical times, although the most dramatic human-caused avian extinctions, eradicating an estimated 750–1800 species, occurred during the human colonisation of Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian islands. Many bird populations are declining worldwide, with 1,227 species listed as threatened by BirdLife International and the IUCN in 2009.
The most commonly cited human threat to birds is habitat loss. Other threats include overhunting, accidental mortality due to collisions with buildings or vehicles, long-line fishing bycatch, pollution (including oil spills and pesticide use), competition and predation from nonnative invasive species, and climate change.
Governments and conservation groups work to protect birds, either by passing laws that preserve and restore bird habitat or by establishing captive populations for reintroductions. Such projects have produced some successes; one study estimated that conservation efforts saved 16 species of bird that would otherwise have gone extinct between 1994 and 2004, including the California condor and Norfolk parakeet.
BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats, and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. It is the world's largest partnership of conservation organisations, with over 120 partner organisations.It has a membership of more than 2.5 million people and partner organizations in more than 100 countries. Major partners include Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Wild Bird Society of Japan, and the U.S. National Audubon Society. The group’s headquarters are located in Cambridge, UK.
BirdLife International’s priorities include preventing extinction of bird species, identifying and safeguarding important sites for birds, maintaining and restoring key bird habitats, and empowering conservationists worldwide. Guided by a global council, member organizations implement the group’s strategies on local, regional, and national levels.
BirdLife International has identified 7,500 important bird areas and manages more than 2,500,000 million acres (1,000,000 hectares) of wildlife habitat. As the official listing authority for birds for the World Conservation Union’s Red List of threatened species, BirdLife International has identified more than 1,000 bird species threatened with extinction and has developed conservation strategies for each of them.Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement, often north and south along a flyway, between breeding and wintering grounds. Many species of bird migrate. Migration carries high costs in predation and mortality, including from hunting by humans, and is driven primarily by availability of food. It occurs mainly in the northern hemisphere, where birds are funneled on to specific routes by natural barriers such as the Mediterranean Sea or the Caribbean Sea.
Migration of species such as storks, turtle doves, and swallows was recorded as many as 3,000 years ago by Ancient Greek authors, including Homer and Aristotle, and in the Book of Job. More recently, Johannes Leche began recording dates of arrivals of spring migrants in Finland in 1749, and modern scientific studies have used techniques including bird ringing and satellite tracking to trace migrants. Threats to migratory birds have grown with habitat destruction especially of stopover and wintering sites, as well as structures such as power lines and wind farms.
The Arctic tern holds the long-distance migration record for birds, travelling between Arctic breeding grounds and the Antarctic each year. Some species of tubenoses (Procellariiformes) such as albatrosses circle the earth, flying over the southern oceans, while others such as Manx shearwaters migrate 14,000 km (8,700 mi) between their northern breeding grounds and the southern ocean. Shorter migrations are common, including altitudinal migrations on mountains such as the Andes and Himalayas.
The timing of migration seems to be controlled primarily by changes in day length. Migrating birds navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth's magnetic field, and mental maps.Bird of prey
Birds of prey, or raptors, include species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter. Additionally, they have keen eyesight for detecting food at a distance or during flight, strong feet equipped with talons for grasping or killing prey, and powerful, curved beaks for tearing flesh. The term raptor is derived from the Latin word rapio, meaning to seize or take by force. In addition to hunting live prey, most also eat carrion, at least occasionally, and vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source.Although the term bird of prey could theoretically be taken to include all birds that primarily consume animals, ornithologists typically use the narrower definition followed in this page. Examples of animal-eating birds not encompassed by the ornithological definition include storks, herons, gulls, skuas, penguins, kookaburras, and shrikes, as well as the many songbirds that are primarily insectivorous.Birdwatching
Birdwatching, or birding, is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of birds is a recreational activity or citizen science. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, by listening for bird sounds, or by watching public webcams.
Birdwatching often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more easily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who engage in the study of birds using formal scientific methods.Cassowary
Cassowaries (), genus Casuarius, are ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) that are native to the tropical forests of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia), East Nusa Tenggara, the Maluku Islands, and northeastern Australia.There are three extant species. The most common of these, the southern cassowary, is the third-tallest and second-heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.
Cassowaries feed mainly on fruit, although all species are truly omnivorous and will take a range of other plant food, including shoots and grass seeds, in addition to fungi, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. Cassowaries are very wary of humans, but if provoked they are capable of inflicting serious injuries, occasionally fatal, to dogs and people. It is often called "the world's most dangerous bird".Charlie Parker
Charles Parker Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), also known as Yardbird and Bird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and advanced harmonies. Parker was a blazingly fast virtuoso, and he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber.
Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career on the road with Jay McShann. This, and the shortened form "Bird", continued to be used for the rest of his life, inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as "Yardbird Suite", "Ornithology", "Bird Gets the Worm", and "Bird of Paradise". Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer.Coccinellidae
Coccinellidae () is a widespread family of small beetles ranging in size from 0.8 to 18 mm (0.03 to 0.71 inches). The family is commonly known as ladybugs in North America, and ladybirds in Britain and other parts of the English-speaking world. Entomologists widely prefer the names ladybird beetles or lady beetles as these insects are not classified as true bugs.The majority of coccinellid species are generally considered useful insects, because many species prey on herbivorous homopterans such as aphids or scale insects, which are agricultural pests. Many coccinellids lay their eggs directly in aphid and scale insect colonies in order to ensure their larvae have an immediate food source. However, some species do have unwelcome effects; among these, the most prominent are of the subfamily Epilachninae (which includes the Mexican bean beetle), which are herbivorous themselves. Usually, epilachnines are only minor agricultural pests, eating the leaves of grain, potatoes, beans, and various other crops, but their numbers can increase explosively in years when their natural enemies, such as parasitoid wasps that attack their eggs, are few. In such situations, they can do major crop damage. They occur in practically all the major crop-producing regions of temperate and tropical countries.Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, colonel () is the most senior field grade military officer rank, immediately above the rank of lieutenant colonel and immediately below the rank of brigadier general. It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the other uniformed services. The pay grade for colonel is O-6.
The insignia of the rank of colonel, as seen on the right, is worn on the officer's left side (a mirror-image version is worn on the right side, such that the eagle always faces forward to the wearer's front; the left-side version is also worn centered on fatigue caps, helmets, Army ACU & ECWCS breasts, inter alia). By law, a colonel must have 22 years of service and a minimum of three years of service as a lieutenant colonel before being promoted.Columbidae
Pigeons and doves constitute the animal family Columbidae and the order Columbiformes, which includes about 42 genera and 310 species. They are stout-bodied birds with short necks, and short slender bills that in some species feature fleshy ceres. They primarily feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. Pigeons and doves are likely the most common birds in the world; the family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones.
The distinction between "doves" and "pigeons" in English is not consistent, and does not exist in most other languages. In everyday speech, "dove" frequently indicates a pigeon that is white or nearly white; some people use the terms "dove" and "pigeon" interchangeably. In contrast, in scientific and ornithological practice, "dove" tends to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied. Historically, the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms. The species most commonly referred to as "pigeon" is the species known by scientists as the rock dove, one subspecies of which, the domestic pigeon, is common in many cities as the feral pigeon.
Pigeon is a French word that derives from the Latin pipio, for a "peeping" chick, while dove is a Germanic word that refers to the bird's diving flight. The English dialectal word "culver" appears to derive from Latin columba.Doves and pigeons build relatively flimsy nests, often using sticks and other debris, which may be placed on trees, ledges, or the ground, depending on species. They lay one or two eggs at a time, and both parents care for the young, which leave the nest after 7–28 days. Unlike most birds, both sexes of doves and pigeons produce "crop milk" to feed to their young, secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Young doves and pigeons are called "squabs".Dodo
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The dodo's closest genetic relative was the also-extinct Rodrigues solitaire, the two forming the subfamily Raphinae of the family of pigeons and doves. The closest living relative of the dodo is the Nicobar pigeon. A white dodo was once thought to have existed on the nearby island of Réunion, but this is now thought to have been confusion based on the Réunion ibis and paintings of white dodos.
Subfossil remains show the dodo was about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) tall and may have weighed 10.6–17.5 kg (23–39 lb) in the wild. The dodo's appearance in life is evidenced only by drawings, paintings, and written accounts from the 17th century. As these vary considerably, and only some of the illustrations are known to have been drawn from live specimens, its exact appearance in life remains unresolved, and little is known about its behaviour. Though the dodo has historically been considered fat and clumsy, it is now thought to have been well-adapted for its ecosystem. It has been depicted with brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tuft of tail feathers, a grey, naked head, and a black, yellow, and green beak. It used gizzard stones to help digest its food, which is thought to have included fruits, and its main habitat is believed to have been the woods in the drier coastal areas of Mauritius. One account states its clutch consisted of a single egg. It is presumed that the dodo became flightless because of the ready availability of abundant food sources and a relative absence of predators on Mauritius.
The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors and invasive species, while its habitat was being destroyed. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662. Its extinction was not immediately noticed, and some considered it to be a mythical creature. In the 19th century, research was conducted on a small quantity of remains of four specimens that had been brought to Europe in the early 17th century. Among these is a dried head, the only soft tissue of the dodo that remains today. Since then, a large amount of subfossil material has been collected on Mauritius, mostly from the Mare aux Songes swamp. The extinction of the dodo within less than a century of its discovery called attention to the previously unrecognised problem of human involvement in the disappearance of entire species. The dodo achieved widespread recognition from its role in the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and it has since become a fixture in popular culture, often as a symbol of extinction and obsolescence.Endemism
Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. The extreme opposite of endemism is cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, which applies to species (and subspecific categories) that are restricted to a defined geographical area.Kiwi
Kiwi ( KEE-wee) or kiwis are flightless birds native to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae. Approximately the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites (which also consist of ostriches, emus, rheas, and cassowaries).
DNA sequence comparisons have yielded the surprising conclusion that kiwi are much more closely related to the extinct Malagasy elephant birds than to the moa with which they shared New Zealand. There are five recognised species, four of which are currently listed as vulnerable, and one of which is near-threatened. All species have been negatively affected by historic deforestation but currently the remaining large areas of their forest habitat are well protected in reserves and national parks. At present, the greatest threat to their survival is predation by invasive mammalian predators.
The kiwi's egg is one of the largest in proportion to body size (up to 20% of the female's weight) of any species of bird in the world. Other unique adaptations of kiwi, such as their hairlike feathers, short and stout legs, and using their nostrils at the end of their long beak to detect prey before they ever see it, have helped the bird to become internationally well-known.
The kiwi is recognised as an icon of New Zealand, and the association is so strong that the term Kiwi is used internationally as the colloquial demonym for New Zealanders.Larry Bird
Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is an American former professional basketball player, former coach, and former executive who most recently served as President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed "The Hick from French Lick," Bird has been described as one of the greatest basketball players and greatest shooters of all time.
Drafted into the NBA by the Boston Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft, Bird started at small forward and power forward for the Celtics for 13 seasons. Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star and received the NBA Most Valuable Player Award three consecutive times (1984–1986). He played his entire professional career for Boston, winning three NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards. Bird was also a member of the gold-medal-winning 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team known as "The Dream Team". He was voted to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame again in 2010 as a member of "The Dream Team".
After retiring as a player, Bird served as head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1997 to 2000. He was named NBA Coach of the Year for the 1997-1998 season and later led the Pacers to a berth in the 2000 NBA Finals. In 2003, Bird was named President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers, holding the position until retiring in 2012. He was named NBA Executive of the Year for the 2012 season. Bird returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations in 2013 and remained in that role until 2017.
As of 2012, Bird is the only person in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.Magic Johnson
Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is an American retired professional basketball player and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons. After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 36, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.
Johnson's career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA's all-time leader in average assists per game, at 11.2. Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"), which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. After leaving the NBA in 1992, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that travelled around the world playing exhibition games. Johnson was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Johnson became a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame—being enshrined in 2002 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team". He was rated the greatest NBA point guard of all time by ESPN in 2007. His friendship and rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, whom he faced in the 1979 NCAA finals and three NBA championship series, are well documented.
Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, broadcaster and motivational speaker. His public announcement of his HIV-positive status in 1991 helped dispel the stereotype, still widely held at the time, that HIV was a "gay disease" that heterosexuals need not worry about; his bravery in making this announcement was widely commended. Named by Ebony magazine as one of America's most influential black businessmen in 2009, Johnson has numerous business interests, and was a part-owner of the Lakers for several years. Johnson also is part of a group of investors that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014.Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 703–712 (although §709 is omitted), is a United States federal law, first enacted in 1916 to implement the convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell birds listed therein as migratory birds. The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs, and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list.Some exceptions to the act, including the eagle feather law, are enacted in federal regulations (50 C.F.R. 22), which regulate the taking, possession, and transportation of bald eagles, golden eagles, and their "parts, nests, and eggs" for "scientific, educational, and depredation control purposes; for the religious purposes of American Indian tribes; and to protect other interests in a particular locality." Enrolled members of federally recognized tribes may apply for an eagle permit for use in "bona fide tribal religious ceremonies."The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for otherwise prohibited activities under the act. These include permits for taxidermy, falconry, propagation, scientific and educational use, and depredation, an example of the latter being the killing of geese near an airport, where they pose a danger to aircraft.
The Act was enacted in an era when many bird species were threatened by the commercial trade in birds and bird feathers. The Act was one of the first federal environmental laws (the Lacey Act had been enacted in 1900). The Act replaced the earlier Weeks-McLean Act (1913). Since 1918, similar conventions between the United States and four other nations have been made and incorporated into the MBTA: Mexico (1936), Japan (1972) and the Soviet Union (1976, now its successor state Russia). Some of the conventions stipulate protections not only for the birds themselves, but also for habitats and environs necessary for the birds' survival.
Constitutionally this law is of interest as it is a use of the federal treaty-making power to override the provisions of state law. The principle that the federal government may do this was upheld in the case Missouri v. Holland.Passerine
A passerine is any bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or – less accurately – as songbirds, passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes (three pointing forward and one back), which facilitates perching.
With more than 110 families and some 6,409 identified species, Passeriformes is the largest order of birds and among the most diverse orders of terrestrial vertebrates. Passerines are divided
into three clades, Acanthisitti (New Zealand wrens), Tyranni (suboscines) and Passeri (oscine).The passerines contain several groups of brood parasites such as the viduas, cuckoo-finches, and the cowbirds. Most passerines are omnivorous, while the shrikes are carnivorous.
The terms "passerine" and "Passeriformes" are derived from the scientific name of the house sparrow, Passer domesticus, and ultimately from the Latin term passer, which refers to sparrows and similar small birds.Phoenix (mythology)
In Greek mythology, a phoenix (; Ancient Greek: φοῖνιξ, phoînix) is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again.
Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. According to some sources, the phoenix dies in a show of flames and combustion, although there are other sources that claim that the legendary bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again. There are different traditions concerning the lifespan of the phoenix, but by most accounts the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Herodotus, Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Lactantius, Ovid, and Isidore of Seville are among those who have contributed to the retelling and transmission of the phoenix motif.
In ancient Greece and Rome, the phoenix was associated with Phoenicia, (modern Lebanon), a civilization famous for its production of purple dye from conch shells.
In the historical record, the phoenix "could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".Raven
A raven is one of several larger-bodied species of the genus Corvus. These species do not form a single taxonomic group within the genus.
There is no consistent distinction between "crows" and "ravens", and these appellations have been assigned to different species chiefly on the basis of their size, crows generally being smaller than ravens.
The largest raven species are the common raven and the thick-billed raven.To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. Instantly successful, widely read in high schools and middle schools in the United States, it has become a classic of modern American literature winning the Pulitzer Prize. The plot and characters are loosely based on Lee's observations of her family, her neighbors and an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1936, when she was 10 years old.
The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator's father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. Historian, J Crespino explains, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism."As a Southern Gothic and Bildungsroman novel, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in the United States with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, often challenged for its use of racial epithets.
Reaction to the novel varied widely upon publication. Despite the number of copies sold and its widespread use in education, literary analysis of it is sparse. Author Mary McDonough Murphy, who collected individual impressions of To Kill a Mockingbird by several authors and public figures, calls the book "an astonishing phenomenon". In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one "every adult should read before they die". It was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1962 by director Robert Mulligan, with a screenplay by Horton Foote. Since 1990, a play based on the novel has been performed annually in Harper Lee's hometown.
To Kill a Mockingbird was Lee's only published book until Go Set a Watchman, an earlier draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, was published on July 14, 2015. Lee continued to respond to her work's impact until her death in February 2016, although she had refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964.
Extant chordate classes
Birds (class: Aves)
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