Facts About Birds 1
Flamingo chicks are born with grey plumage. They get their pink colour because their staple food, brine shrimp, is rich in carotene. Flamingos can range in colour from light pink to dark red depending on their food supply and flamingos with light coloured feathers are usually malnourished. Every flamingo has 12 black feathers in each wing.
The world’s smallest bird is the bee humming bird and is found in Cuba and the Isle of Pines. It is only 5.7 cm long (which is just over half the length of the UK’s smallest bird, the goldcrest) and weighs 1.6g. Its eggs are 6.35 mm long and it builds the world’s smallest nest.
The world’s fastest bird is the peregrine falcon which can reach level flight speeds of up to 60 mph. Its streamlined body, powerful muscles and wing shape are ideal for fast flight. Birds of prey also use a controlled dive known as a stoop when hunting and it is possible for the peregrine falcon to reach stoop speeds of up to 200 mph.
Despite the variations in bird egg colour, only two pigments are responsible for the different colours. Oocyan, which is derived from bile, causes the blue and green shades and Protoporphyrin causes the spots and patterns. The colour of eggs is a camouflage and will depend on where they are laid.
The bird who builds the foulest smelling nest is the Eurasian hoopoe. The interior of the nest is lined with faeces and smells foul as protection against predators. The hoopoe is mentioned in the Old Testament as an unclean bird.
Bird faeces is white due to chemical reactions that occur within the urinary system to process waste matter into a substance that can be safely excreted with the least water loss. It is not actually the faeces which is white but uric acid which is the bird equivalent of human urine.
James Bond was named after an American ornithologist and author of Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming wrote “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” In Die Another Day Pierce Brosnan can be seen reading Birds of the West Indies.
The common poorwill, a relative of the nightjar, is the only bird that is known to hibernate. It is found in the western states of the USA and inhabits areas of low vegetation and rocky outcrops and would struggle to find enough food to survive the winter. In the UK swifts use a similar strategy and go into a state of “topor” which is where the body temperature and metabolism is reduced to save energy.
The highest bird flight ever recorded was by a Ruppell’s griffon vulture. It was recorded hitting an aircraft over the Ivory Coast at 11,274 m. The highest flying British bird is the whooper swan. A pilot recorded a flock flying at 8,230 m over the Hebrides.
Edible-nest swiftlets build the most sophisticated nests which form the basis of the Chinese delicacy birds’ nest soup. The nests are made from the birds’ salivary cement and contain high quantities of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. The edible bird’s nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans.