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

How do birds survive in so many habitats? The world’s 10,000 or so bird species are different shapes and sizes. Ostriches in Africa can be 2.7 meters (nine feet) tall. In Cuba, the bee hummingbird 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.
Some birds are full of color, like the painted bunting in Texas. Others come in various shades of brown.

superb parrot

The superb parrot's tiny beak helps it nibble on flowers and fruit.

Delightfully Different 

They behave in different ways, too. Some are very social. Others are not. Flamingos gather in flocks of millions. Parakeets build entire parakeet cities out of sticks in trees. Dippers walk alone and underwater. 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. It swooped down and tried to knock my head off when I stared at it too long.

A rushbird can spend its entire life beside a tiny pond. A cerulean warbler may migrate to Peru. It then can 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.