fiery billed aracari

Bird beaks are often suited for bird diets. The fiery billed aracari’s beak is razor-sharp to slice open fruit.

Tailored to the Task

To survive in so many different habitats, the world’s 10,000 or so bird species are diverse. They range in size. Ostriches in Africa can be 2.7 meters (nine feet) tall. The bee hummingbird, found only in Cuba, can fit in the palm of your hand with room to spare.

Bird bills can be massive, like the toucan’s, or small, like the weebill’s. The sword-billed hummingbird’s bill is as long as the rest of its body!

Some birds are full of color, like thepainted bunting in Texas. Others come in various shades of brown: dark brown, light brown, tan, beige, bran-colored...

superb parrot

The superb parrot’s tiny
beak helps it nibble on flowers, fruits, nectar,
and pollen.

Delightfully Diverse

They behave in diverse ways, too. Some are highly social, others, not so much. Flamingos gather in flocks of millions. Parakeets build entire parakeet cities in trees out of sticks. Dippers walk alone and underwater, on the beds of mountain streams. A wandering albatross may glide 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) in a single journey, away from any other albatrosses.

I’ve met friendly birds, like the New Zealand fantail that once followed me down a trail. And I’ve met mean ones, like the caracara in Chile that swooped down and tried to knock my head off when I stared at it too long.

Roadrunners rely on teamwork to kill rattlesnakes for food. One bird distracts the snake while another sneaks up behind it. Bee-eaters eat bees. Leaftossers toss leaves. Peregrine falcons can dive downward through the air at 386 kilometers (240 miles) an hour.

A wren-like rushbird can spend its entire life beside a tiny pond. A cerulean warbler may migrate to Peru and then find its way back to the tree in New Jersey where it nested the year before.



superb fairywren

In 1918, the U.S. Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect birds. It’s one of the oldest wildlife protection laws. In the hundred years since this law passed, millions of birds have been protected from hunting, trapping, and selling.