Friday, March 9, 2012

Really Wierd Birds: Part 1

There is such a huge diversity of birds in the world.  Some of them are quite bizarre!  Some have weird feather characteristics, weird facial features, or other physical oddities and some have unusual coloring or strange behaviors.

One species that caught my interest was the Kea, an omnivorous parrot native only to the South Island of New Zealand. 
  Keas are found only on the South Island of New Zealand
This bird has been witnessed doing some interesting behaviors.  First of all, they win the award for bossiest bird.  These birds are very social and live in groups of up to 13.  A social hierarchy is present and dominant birds have been seen to force submissive individuals to cooperate in tasks that only benefit the dominant bird.  In addition to this behavior, these birds have been witnessed attacking sheep!  They rip through the wool with their sharp beaks and eat the high energy fat off of live sheep.  Check out this video

The Hoatzin, native to the swamps of the Amazon rainforest and Orinoco Delta of South America, has a blue featherless face, maroon eyes, and spike-like feathers sticking up on its head. 
  The Hoatzin - an odoriferous bird from South America
Not only does this bird look unusual, but they smell like manure and are nicknamed the “stinkbird.”  They have two spurs on their wings when they are chicks, which help them climb around on branches.  These birds are strict herbivores and the majority of their diet is made up of leaves, which are hard to digest.  They have a unique digestive system and can ferment the leaves they eat in a foregut like cows, sheep, and deer.  Regurgitated plant matter is fed to their chicks.  These birds use most of their energy digesting their food, so they rarely ever fly.

The Resplendent Quetzal is an absolutely gorgeous bird, native to Central America, which comes in a variety of striking colors.  The males of this species have extremely long tail feathers that reach up to 3 feet--longer than its entire body.
The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal--the national bird of Guatemala  
When taking flight, the males will dive backwards off of a tree branch so as not to rip his long tail feathers.  They nest in hollowed out trees and when a male enters, he backs into it then once inside curls his tail over his head and out the hole.

The Bird-of-paradise is a family of birds consisting of 40 species mostly found in New Guinea and surrounding islands.  They come in an array of beautiful colors, have unusual feather characteristics, and super strange and impressive courtship displays and rituals.  This link has some great photos.  Here is a hilarious video of a few courtship displays.   Some look like they should be from another planet!

As you can see, the diversity of birds is so vast!  Part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to maintain biological diversity on our earth so future generations can enjoy the same amazing animals.  Stay tuned next month for part 2 of Really Weird Birds!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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