Who likes owls? I do! I do! And, woodpeckers. And, hummingbirds. And, chickadees. And, cardinals. And, raptors. I really like birds. I like them for many reasons:
- They are always around. Yes, some birds are here only in the summer. Others are here only in the winter. And, still others are here only for a few weeks as they migrate through. But, no matter the time of year, there are always birds around.
- Not only are they around no matter the time of year, they are always around no matter where YOU are! Birds can be found on all continents, in every ecosystem, and in every habitat. Farm, check. Shortgrass Prairie, check. Sandhills, check. Tallgrass prairie, check. Urban city, check. Suburban backyard, check. Go outside right now, and I bet you will see a bird within a few minutes. Can’t say that about a reptile, amphibian, fish, or insect!
- They can fly! (I can’t!) Birds are able to fly due to their extremely light bones, their extremely strong breast muscles which push the wing down thus creating and up-lift of air, and their extremely efficient lungs (or 4 lungs!) which are better at pulling oxygen out of the air than our lungs.
- They have all different kinds of beaks. Some beaks are long and extremely thin for probing in the mud for insects and worms (curlew, avocet, sandpipers). Other beaks are short and curved for tearing apart food (hawks, eagles, owls). Still other beaks are short and round for cracking seeds (chickadee, cardinal, sparrow). And, still other beaks are large and curved with small teeth-like structures for filtering out plants for the water (ducks, geese, swans). The list of different beaks goes on and on!
- They have belly buttons! Yes, that’s right, they have belly buttons. To be more specific, baby birds have belly buttons. This is the site where the developing embryo attaches to the egg sac. When the baby bird hatches, there is a small spot where the cord used to be. As the bird grows, the scar shrinks and by the time the bird is an adult, there is no sign of the belly button. So, they kind-of have a belly button!
- They are amazing predators! Really! Even a small house wren can feed up to 500 spiders and insects to its nestlings within oneafternoon! Owls have fantastic hearing and “silent flight” which allow them to accurately hunt their prey at night. A BaltimoreOriole can eat as many as 17 caterpillars in one minute!
- They come in all sizes. The ostrich is the world’s largest bird with a height of about 9 feet! The Bee Hummingbird is the world’s smallest at a size of just about 2 inches. In Nebraska, we have Whooping Cranes which reach heights of nearly 5 feet. Nebraska’s smallest bird species is the Calliope Hummingbird measuring in at about 3 ¼ inches.
Think about it. Birds are REALLY cool! Take a few minutes to head outside this week and look for birds. Better yet, try attracting birds to you!