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Bird Facts

Posted by on Mar. 14, 2012 at 7:27 PM
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 Did you know there are 30 groups of birds?
What is your favorite bird?  Do you ever go birdwatching?

There are some 9,700 species of birds alive today that inhabit a wide range of habitats including wetlands, woodlands, mountains, deserts, tundra, coasts and the open ocean. To better understand the immense diversity of birds, it is useful to examine the main groups of birds. Although there are several different ways experts classify birds into subgroups, on this website we recognize that there are 30 groups of birds:


Albatrosses and Petrels
Albatrosses and petrels, also known as tubenoses, are a group of seabirds that includes albatrosses, fulmars, prions, shearwaters, storm-petrels and diving petrels. Tubenoses are pelagic birds that spend long periods of time foraging over the open ocean. They have a widespread distribution and occur throughout most oceanic regions of the world. Tubenoses return to land only to breed. They select nesting sites on remote islands and on rugged coastal cliffs. There are 107 species of tubenoses. 


Birds of Prey
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are formidable avian predators, armed with powerful talons, hooked beaks and acute eyesight. Raptors generally have broad wings well-suited for soaring. Raptors hunt by day and feed on a variety of prey including fish, small mammals, reptiles and carrion. Raptors first appeared during the Middle Eocene. The group includes eagles, hawks, kites, falcons and old world vultures and comprises a total of 304 species.


Buttonquails are a small group of birds consisting of 15 species. They have 3 toes on each foot and lack a hindtoe. Although buttonquails resemble quails, they are not closely related to them. Buttonquails inhabit grasslands, scrublands and croplands. They are drab-colored birds and prefer running to flying. Their distribution includes Asia, Africa, Madagascar, Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Malasyia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

Cassowaries and Emus
Cassowaries and emus together form a group of large flightless birds comprised of just four species-three cassowaries and one emu. Cassowaries inhabit New Guinea and Australia, emus are restricted to New Guinea. Although their ancestors could fly, present-day cassowaries and emus have only tiny vestigial wings that are far too weak to lift their bulky bodies into the air. Their feathers have become limp and shaggy and resemble coarse fur. The two groups occupy different habitats-cassowaries prefer forests while emus opt for scrublands and grasslands.


Cranes, Coots and Rails
Cranes and their relatives-the coots, rails, crakes, bustards and trumpeters-form a group that consists of 199 species. The members of this group are varied in their size and appearance, but generally have a short tail, long neck and rounded wings. The cranes are the largest birds in this group, with some species standing five feet tall. The cranes re also some of the most threatened of all bird groups. Most members of this group inhabit wetlands or lead fully aquatic lifestyles.

Cuckoos and Turacos
Cuckoos and turacos, although related and therefore grouped together, are in fact two somewhat distinct groups of birds. Both groups inhabit forests but while cuckoos have a worldwide distribution, turacos are restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Cuckoos and turacos generally have a bulky body, small head, short beak long tail and broad wings. Cuckoos are dull colored birds but turacos have brightly colored plumage with vibrant reds and greens. There are 161 species of cuckoos and turacos.


Flamingos are an ancient group of filter-feeding birds that survive on a diet of brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Their diet is rich in carotenoids, a class of proteins responsible for their bright pink to crimson plumage. They are highly social birds and form large flocks that feed and travel together. Flamingos inhabit tropical and subtropical regions in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, India and the Middle East. Their preferred habitat includes estuarine lagoons, mangrove swamps, tidal flats and large alkaline or saline lakes. There are five species of flamingos.

Gamebirds are a group of ground-dwelling birds that include chickens, guineafowl, turkeys, peacocks and pheasants. There are, in total, 287 species of gamebirds. Gamebirds have strong feet that they use to scratch at the ground while foraging for food. Some gamebirds have been domesticated by humans-the first of which was the jungle fowl, the ancestor of modern chickens. Other domesticated gamebirds include turkeys and guineafowl. Although in some gamebird species males and females are similar in appearance, a few species-such as pheasants and peacocks-exhibit a striking degree of sexual dimorphism.

Grebes are group of medium-sized freshwater diving birds that have worldwide distribution. There are six genera of grebes that comprise 21 species. Grebes have long necks and pointed bills. During the breeding season, grebes take part in elaborate courtship displays. Both parents are attentive to their young.


Herons, Storks and Relatives
Herons, storks and their relatives-bitterns, egrets, spoonbills and ibises-are long-legged, sharp-billed carnivorous birds that inhabit freshwater wetlands. There are about 115 species of storks and herons. Most members of the group are solitary hunters that stalk their prey slowly before striking quickly with their powerful bill. When flying, most herons and egrets coil their necks into an S shape. In contrast, storks fly with their necks extended straight out in front of their body.


Hummingbirds and Swifts
Hummingbirds and swifts are a diverse group of birds with long, narrow wings and dainty little legs and feet. Their wing bones differ in proportion from those of most other birds-the elbow joint lies close to the shoulder joint and their hand bones are long. Swifts are arial hunters that feed on insects. Hummingbirds feed on nectar they siphon from flowers. Swifts are worldwide in their distribution. Hummingbirds are restricted to North, South and Central America. There are 429 species of hummingbirds and swifts.


Kingfishers and their relatives-bee-eaters, rollers, hornbills and hoopies-are large-billed birds that feed on fish and insects. Kingfishes and their relatives are worldwide in distribution. They have a large head, powerful bills, a unique pattern of feather tracts. Most members of this group perch and wait to spot their prey and when they do, they swoop down and capture it before returning to their perch to eat it. There are 208 species of kingfishers.


Kiwis are small, flightless, nocturnal birds endemic to New Zealand. There are three species of kiwis. Kiwis forage at night on the forest floor, probing their bills into the loose debris and vegetation. They feed on earthworms and other small animals which they locate using nostrils located at the tip of their bill. Kiwis have tiny vestigial wings that are invisible under a coat of coarse shaggy feathers. Kiwis have long downward-curved bills. The closest living relatives of the kiwis are thought to be the cassowaries and emus.


by on Mar. 14, 2012 at 7:27 PM
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by Group Owner on Mar. 14, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Loons are a group of freshwater diving birds that inhabit northern lakes throughout North America and Eurasia. There are five species of loons. Loons have the smallest wing-to-weight ration of all birds but this does not mean they are unskilled fliers. Their legs are located towards the back of their body, giving them optimum power when moving in the water but making them awkward when trying to move about on land. Loons have a streamlined profile, a long body and a dagger-like bill. There are five living species of loons.


Mousebirds are a small group of birds that inhabit open woodlands, scrublands and savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. They have a distinct crest and strong legs. The feed on fruit, seeds and the occasional insect. Outside the breeding season, mousebirds gather in flocks of up to 30 individuals. During the breeding season the flock dissipates and mating pairs form. There are 6 species of mousebirds.


Nightjars and Frogmouths
Nightjars and frogmouths together make up a group of birds consisting of 115 species. Nightjars and frogmouths are crepuscular or nocturnal birds that feed on insects that they catch in flight or by foraging on the ground. Nightjars and frogmouths are brown, black, buff and white in color and their feather pattern is often quite mottled. They blend well into their habitat-depending on species, they nest and roost on the ground or in the crooks of trees.


The ostrich is a record-breaking bird. It's the tallest and heaviest species of all living birds. Although its bulky body means that flying is out of the question, the ostrich has adapted to life on the ground with impressive agility. Ostriches are superb runners that can sprint at speeds of up to 45 mph. The ostrich is also an endurance runner and can jog at a slick 30 mph for as long as a half an hour. There is only one species of ostrich.


Owls are nocturnal avian predators with large, front-facing eyes, distinct calls and sharp-clawed feet. There are 194 species of owls and they inhabit every continent except for Antarctica. During the day, most owls roost in trees and at night they emerge to hunt under cover of darkness. When they fly, most owls' wing-beats are virtually silent due to soft fringes on their feathers that dampen sound.

Parrots are a group of gregarious and vibrantly colored tropical birds that include 352 species. Parrots live in a variety of habitats, but many species inhabit forests and open woodlands. Their range stretches across Australia, Asia, Africa and South America. Parrots are social birds that live in pairs or gather to form clamorous flocks. There are numerous endangered species of parrots. The greatest threats to parrots include habitat destruction and trapping for the pet trade.

Pelicans and Relatives - Pelecaniformes
Pelicans and their relatives are a group of fish-eating birds that consists of 64 species. The group includes pelicans, gannets, boobies, cormorants, anhingas, tropicbirds and frigatebirds. Pelicans and their relatives are an ancient clan of birds with a fossil record that stretches back 100 million years. The members of this group are varied in their appearance but all have four toes that are connected by a web of skin. Many species have a throat pouch, a characteristic most prominent in pelicans and frigatebirds.


Penguins - Sphenisciformes
Penguins are flightless birds that have stiff wings and distinct coloration (black or gray feathers on their backs and white feathers on their bellies). Their wing bones are fused to form flipper-like limbs and enable the birds to dive and swim with great skill. Penguins have long bills that are laterally narrow. Their legs are short and positioned at the posterior of ther body. They have four forward pointing toes. There are 17 species of penguins.


Perching Birds - Passeriformes
Perching birds are the most diverse of all bird groups, with over 5,200 species. Perching birds, also known as songbirds, are distinguished by their feet which have four toes, three of which point forward and one of which points backwards. Perching birds are active birds that inhabit a wide range of terrestrial habitats including forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts and tundra. Perching birds are varied in appearance, with some species being dull in color while others are brightly colored.


Pigeons and Doves - Columbiformes
Pigeons and doves are gregarious plant and seed eating birds that includes 312 species. They have a plump body, small head and a small bill. The range in color from brown to grey and blue and some species have pink, bronze or iridescent highlights. Pigeons and doves often feed in flocks. Two well-known extinct birds, the dodo and the passenger pigeon, both belonged to this group. Today, pigeons and doves face threats from hunting, habitat destruction and introduced predators.



Rheas - Rheiformes
Rheas are a group of flightless birds that includes 2 species, both of which inhabit South America. Rheas, like ostriches, have flat breastbones that lack a keel, the bone structure to which flight muscles attached. They have long, shaggy feathers and three toes on each foot. They also have a claw on each wing that they use to defend themselves when threatened. Rheas inhabit open lands such as deserts, grasslands, and steppes.


Sandgrouse - Pteroclidiformes
Sandgrouse are a group of 16 species of birds that inhaibt deserts, steppes, mudflats and dry ravines throughout southern Europe, Africa and Asia. Sandgrouse are rotund birds that exhibit rather cryptic coloration that enables them to blend well with their surroundings. There are 16 species of sandgrouse.


Shorebirds - Charadriiformes
Shorebirds include birds such as waders, gulls and auks are a group of shore-dwelling birds. The group includes 344 species. Waders, gulls and auks are small to medium sized birds with thin bills and long legs. They prefer open coastal habitats such as shorelines and beaches. There they feed on insects, worms and other small aquatic animals by probing in the soft sediment or picking them off the ground.


Tinamous - Tinamiformes
Tinamous are ground dwelling birds. They are generally well camouflaged birds, with patterned plumage that ranges from light to dark brown or gray. They tire easily when flying or running, so their plumage helps them to blend into their surroundings to avoid predators. There are 47 species of tinamous.


Trogons - Trogoniformes
Trogons are a group of 39 species of tropical forest birds that inhabit the Americas, southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. They have a short beak, rounded wings, and a long tail. Trogons feed on insects and fruit. Trogons build their nests in tree cavities or by moving into abandoned insect nests.


Waterfowl - Anseriformes
Waterfowl form a group of 157 species of ducks, geese, screamers, swans and their relatives. Most species of waterfowl are well-adapted for life in aquatic habitats. Many groups-such as ducks, geese and swans-have webbed feet, an elevated hind toe, and a flattened blunt-tipped bill.


Woodpeckers and Relatives - Piciformes
Woodpeckers and their relatives form a group of woodland birds that, in addition to woodpeckers, includes toucans, jacamars, puffbirds, barbets and honeyguides. There are 396 species of woodpeckers and their relatives. Members of this group feed on insects or fruit. One group, the honeyguides, are specialty feeders that survive on a diet of beeswax. All woodpeckers and their relatives have strong bills and a well-cushioned brain, adaptations that enable them to peck for food for long periods each day without injury. Woodpeckers and their relatives have four toes on each foot, two that face forward and two that face backwards.


by Welcome Committee on Mar. 20, 2012 at 8:35 PM

 Wow 30 groups, I didn't know that!

I would have to say Parrots are my favorite birds, I'm not really a bird person. No I never been bird watching in my life.

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