Learning4Fun: Birds

There are nearly 10,000 species of bird and they belong to all sorts of families. Here’s some fascinating facts to impress your friends with about these wonderful winged animals…

Why does a bird have feathers?

A bird is the only animal with feathers. Feathers keep birds warm and waterproof. They are light and a special shape, which helps most birds to fly. Feathers are made from the same material as our hair and nails, called keratin. Birds see in colour and recognise their own species from the colours and patterns on their feathers.

Great Grey Owls

A great grey owl is great in many ways, but it gets its name from being the tallest owl in the world. It has seven more bones in its neck than a human, which means it can turn its head almost all the way around. It has disks of feathers around its eyes. These act like satellite dishes and direct sound into its ears. As it flies, air passes through an owl’s feathers. This means the owls are silent when they swoop down on their prey.


Why is a flamingo pink? A flamingo’s favourite food is shrimp and algae. The colour inside turns the flamingo’s feathers pink and red. A flamingo likes to sleep standing on one leg. No one is sure why! Strange but cool –when a flamingo gets too hot, it pees on its own legs to cool itself down.



Parrots are some of the cleverest birds and can occasionally copy human voices. They do this because they think it is the sound they need to make to stay in touch with their flock. Parrots build nests in tree holes, cliffs and banks, or among rocks on the ground. A lovebird parrot will stay with its partner for its whole life. A macaw parrot can live for up to 100 years!



From tip to tip a wandering albatross’s wings are 11ft across! Their big wings help them to glide without flapping so that they can save energy on a long trip. Many seabirds, including albatrosses, mistake plastic floating in the ocean for food. They often end up feeding it to their chicks too, which can make them very sick. An albatross can drink salty sea water! It gets rid of the salt through a small hole above its eye.




Why is a peacock such a show-off? A male peacock has over 200 glamorous, shimmering tail feathers that it shows off in a fan shape. The more impressive the display, the more likely he is to catch the eye of a female peahen. A peacock is a very big bird, but it can still fly if it needs to escape from a hungry tiger. You’ll never meet a… picky peacock. It will eat anything it can get its beak on, including fruit, mice and even baby snakes!



An edited excerpt from The Big Book of Birds by Yuval Zommer. The follow up to the bestselling The Big Book of Bugsand The Big Book of the Blue, this is the ultimate illustrated guide to some of the world’s most colourful, magnificent, silly and surprising feathered creatures. Published by Thames & Hudson, HB £12.95.

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