The main characteristic of a bird is feathers. No other animal has feathers. Other important features for birds are wings and hollow bones. Birds also lay eggs, like reptiles, however they are warm-blooded, like mammals.
What are Feathers?
Feathers are made of keratin. This is the same stuff that fingernails are made of. At the center of the feather is a hollow shaft called the rachis. Connected to the shaft are lots of thin branches called barbs. Off of the barbs are even smaller branches called barbules. All of these branches make a light structure that can gather air to fly.
How do birds fly?
Birds fly by flapping their wings and using air pressure to create lift under their wings. Just like airplanes do. The peregrine falcon is one of the fastest birds. It can reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour when diving.
Feathers are important to birds because they keep them warm, help them to fly, and provide camouflage. Hollow bones also help in flying because they help make the bird light enough to fly.
Not All Birds Fly
Although an important characteristic of most birds is flying, not all birds fly. Some birds that don’t fly are penguins, kiwis, and ostriches. Penguins actually spend a good portion of time in the water where they are prolific swimmers. Ostriches on the other hand are very fast runners. An ostrich can outrun a horse!
Types of Birds
There are all sizes of birds. Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds, while ostriches are some of the biggest. Different types of birds eat different things. Some birds feed on plants, some birds eat insects, and still others eat other animals like fish, snakes, or rodents.
Birds are also known for their massive migrating patterns. Some Birds will travel long distances each season to stay in a climate that is good for their survival. Birds are sometimes kept as pets. The most popular birds for pets are tropical birds like parrots. Birds also have a history of helping out humans in various tasks. They can carry messages (homing pigeons) and help hunt (falcons).
Birds as Pets
Exercise and activities are extremely important to keep your pet bird healthy and happy. As pet birds are inquisitive and highly social creatures that like to play. Exercise is natural for them and easy to provide. It is important that if your bird is fully flighted that you give them daily out of cage time to fly and stretch their wings!
An easy way to provide entertainment is with toys as well as exercise most parrots like to chew. Perches, swings, ladders and toys all become objects of entertainment and chewing. Plastic toys are better for small birds. Small birds like budgies and cockatiels are fine with plastic toys. But when it comes to larger more destructive parrots it is safer to offer them with toys made from natural materials, woods, leathers and acrylic for your parrot to chew on.
As a rule birds make great pets! Whether they are in a cage indoors with your family or outside in an aviary situation. When loved and shown the attention and respect they deserve, they will re-pay you tenfold with loyal companionship and wonderful displays of colour and song. They come in many shapes and sizes so there is a species to fit in with almost every home environment. They are also highly intelligent and so when given adequate training and socialisation, birds can be every bit as loving and affectionate as a cat or dog. Some species of birds can be even trained to talk and do simple tricks and tasks so they make for very rewarding and entertaining companions.