BirdsBirds are warm-blooded vertebrates (vertebrates have backbones) and are the only animals with feathers. Although all birds have wings, a few species can't fly.
50 Birds, 50 StatesBarry the bald eagle soars from coast to coast to meet state birds and learn about their homes. Each episode is an animated rap music video focusing on the big cities, history, landmarks, and significant geographical areas of each state.
Humboldt PenguinFebruary 11, 2016 – Crossing a beach to get to the sea, a two-foot-tall Humboldt penguin waddles over what appears to be a cluster of large boulders. Suddenly one of the rock-like objects rises up and barks! The penguin is stepping on sea lions lounging on the shore. Sea lions prey on Humboldt penguins in water but are too slow to catch them on land. The bird continues to ruffle feathers as it climbs over more annoyed sea lions. But it finally makes it to the ocean and dives in for a swim. A GOOD SPORT Humboldt penguins live along the shores of Peru and Chile, two countries in South America. Named for a chilly water current that flows through their coastal range, these birds are excellent swimmers. Their torpedo-shaped bodies can shoot through the water at speeds of 30 miles an hour. And they can dive up to 500 feet underwater in search of snacks such as fish, shrimp, and squid. When the birds need a break from swimming, they come ashore. Getting around on land isn’t always easy. Parts of their habitat feature rocky seaside cliffs. Luckily the animals have some built-in climbing gear: They use sharp claws on their webbed feet to grip onto rocks as they move across the rugged landscape. The animals also put their climbing skills to use when they have to scramble over sunbathing sea lions blocking their path to the ocean. THINK PINK During the hottest months of the year, temperatures in the Humboldt penguin's home can reach triple digits. The animal has ways to beat the heat though. It sports patches of bare, pink skin around its eyes and at the base of its bill. The bird expels body heat through these featherless spots. This little guy's athletic abilities and its pink patches make it one colorful penguin! Check out the book Penguins vs. Puffins for more about these amazing birds! Watch a YouTube playlist all about penguins. Text by Andrea Silen, NGS Staff
Wacky Weekend: Strange BirdsOctober 01, 2015 – Take a gander at these photos of some of the weirdest winged creatures ever caught on camera!
OstrichMarch 01, 2014 – The ostrich is the tallest and the heaviest of all birds. While the huge ostrich is a bird, it does not fly. Instead it runs. One stride can cover up to 16 feet (4.9 meters)—about the length of a mid-size family car! The bird is speedy, too. It can run just over 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour for a short distance, and can keep up a speed of more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) an hour over longer distances. The ostrich uses its short wings for balance, holding them outstretched when it runs. Strong legs can also be used for self-defense. An ostrich will kick with a force mighty enough to kill a lion. When danger approaches, an ostrich will often lie low to hide, stretching its neck along the ground. Its feather colors blend with the sandy soil where it lives. From far away, it looks like the ostrich has buried its head in the sand. Many people thought that was what ostriches did when they were trying to hide, but that is a myth. Ostriches live near grazing animals such as wildebeest, antelopes, and zebras. The grazers stir up insects and rodents for the ostriches to eat, and the ostriches warn the grazers to dangers such as approaching lions. An ostrich group, called a herd, numbers about 12 individuals. Male ostriches compete for control of a group of several females. A herd has a dominant male and a dominant female. She mates only with him, though he may mate with other females as well. All the egg-laying females, called hens, lay their eggs in the nest of the dominant female. Then that female—whose eggs are positioned in the center of the nest, the most well-protected spot—and her mate take care of all the eggs in that one nest. Each egg can be up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and weigh 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms)!
Pileated WoodpeckerMarch 01, 2014 – The pileated woodpecker is one of the largest woodpecker species in North America and its look is unmistakable—a large black bird with white on each side of its neck and a red crest on its head. When it flies, white flashes are visible under its wings. The sound of the pileated woodpecker's hammering carries a long distance through the woods where they live. They drum to attract mates and to establish the boundaries of their territory—warning other males away. They use their beaks to peck and dig under bark to find carpenter ants, beetle larvae, and other insects and will often dig large, rectangular holes in trees to uncover their meals. Some holes are so big that they weaken small, young trees. The birds also strip pieces of bark from trees looking for food. Generally, however, pileated woodpeckers help keep a forest healthy by eating wood-boring insects. A nesting pair of pileated woodpeckers usually makes a nesting hole in a large, older tree. During the day, both parents take turns incubating, or sitting on, the eggs to keep them warm. At night, only the male incubates the eggs. They generally lay four eggs at a time, which take about two weeks to hatch.
American GoldfinchMay 08, 2017 – An American goldfinch soars through the warm spring air, it’s yellow feathers reflecting the sun. Suddenly the bird opens its mouth and chirps a call that sounds like “po-ta-to-chip.” This flier isn’t looking for a salty snack. It’s using this vocalization to communicate with its flock. The bird flies on, continuing its delicious call.
California QuailMay 08, 2017 – Looking for berries and seeds to eat, a group of California quail struts down a dirt road. The floppy black feathers that stick out of their heads quiver as they go. These birds chirp to each other during their search; it sounds like they’re saying, “chi-ca-go, chi-ca-go.” The animals will continue foraging for food throughout the day—meaning this lively bird parade will continue for a while longer.
Eastern BluebirdMay 08, 2017 – An eastern bluebird perches on a branch, patiently watching the ground below. Suddenly it spots a beetle. The bird spreads its bright blue wings, flies to the ground, and gobbles up the small insect. Then the colorful flier returns to its perch to wait for its next snack.
American RobinMay 08, 2017 – American robins live across North America and in parts of Central America. They can be found in open grassy areas, gardens, and woodlands. This animal is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
American CrowDecember 15, 2014 – If you live in the contiguous United States, you’ve almost certainly seen (or heard!) an American crow. Crows range from southern Canada throughout the United States. As an adult, this bird is entirely black from bill to tail, except for its brown eyes. Adult crow feathers have a glossy sheen. These noisy birds are often recognizable by their distinctive, loud cry, called a caw. They are often mistaken for the common raven, but ravens are larger, have differently shaped bills, pointed wings and tails, and hoarser cries. American crows often live in family groups. Both members of a breeding pair help build the nests, and the female crow usually lays four or five eggs in the spring or summer. After about five weeks in the nest, the young birds begin learning how to fly and catch prey. Crows sometimes stay near the place where they were born to help raise other young crows. Crows gather in large groups during the winter. They congregate late in the day in areas with large trees. This behavior is known as winter roosting. Crows will eat almost anything, from insects and small animals such as frogs to fruit and nuts. They prefer open areas with access to trees and can sometimes be found around vegetable gardens. Crows also frequently live in suburban neighborhoods and in parks. Crows are considered to be very intelligent birds. Text by Sara Zeglin / NGS Staff
Brown ThrasherMay 08, 2017 – A brown thrasher moves its long bill back and forth through a pile of leaves like a broom sweeping the floor. Leaves scatter into the air as the bird pokes into the soil and finds a small beetle to eat. It quickly digests the tiny insect and then moves on to the next pile of leaves and dirt using its strong beak to thrash around for more food.
Whooping CraneFebruary 25, 2015 – You may weigh more than a whooping crane (and if you don’t you better start getting seconds at dinner), but you probably aren’t taller than one! Adults are about five feet tall, which makes them the tallest birds in North America. But even as tall as they are, whooping cranes weigh only about 15 pounds, thanks to their hollow bones. WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Whooping cranes live in wetlands, marshes, mudflats, wet prairies, and fields. They’re not picky about their meals—they have a varied diet and eat small fish, reptiles, and insects, as well as grains, marsh plants, and acorns. CALL OF THE WILD Whooping cranes really like to 'whoop it up' when it comes to attracting a mate. They call loudly and do what might look like a crazy dance to get attention. They flap their wings, shake their heads, jump up and down, and toss around feathers and grass! These birds are endangered, but scientists have used some pretty interesting tricks to help them survive. First they relocated one flock to Florida, but the birds never learned to migrate. Conservationists were determined to help the birds flourish and thrive, so they used a special trick with another Florida flock. Scientists "taught" the younger birds to migrate by having them follow an ultralight aircraft from Florida to Wisconsin. After the birds bred and hatched their chicks, they’d follow the plane back to Wisconsin! In addition to the year-round Florida flock and the one that migrates from Florida to Wisconsin, another flock flies from Texas to Canada and back again each year. These whooping cranes are really spreading their wings! Text by Laura Goertzel /NGS Staff