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Interesting Facts About Birds 

March 1, 2024

Did you know that birds are the fourth most popular pet in the United States? It probably won’t be surprising to learn that Fido and Fluffy are the top two. Fish are in third place. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are more than 7.5 million pet birds here in the US. Read on to find out more about Man’s Fourth Best Friend in this article from Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO animal hospital.

They Come In All Different Sizes

Birds vary drastically as far as size goes. The itty-bitty hummingbird is the smallest bird, which you may already know. These little guys can fly backwards and even hover in place!

As to the biggest bird? As you may have guessed, that would be the ostrich. With a weight of about 220–350 pounds (100–160 kg), ostriches can reach a height of up to 9 feet (2.7 meters).

Not All Birds Fly

New Zealand’s Kakapo parrot is on the other end of the spectrum. It is a bright bird with a sweet, slightly confused face. It is possible for these huge birds to weigh more than seven pounds. The Kakapo can’t fly, which makes it very easy for territory loss and other dangers, like predators, to hurt them. Once common in New Zealand, birds that couldn’t fly were wiped out by cats, weasels, and other animals brought there by traders. The Kakapo, which was once thought to be threatened, seems to be rallying.

The Kakapo isn’t the only bird that doesn’t fly, or doesn’t fly well. Penguins, chickens, and turkeys also tend to be landlubbers. (Penguins actually swim, but that’s another topic.) 

Penguin Time

Okay, speaking of penguins … they are the only bird that is able to swim, but cannot fly. 

A Forgotten Favorite

These days, many people see pigeons as a pest. These beautiful birds, however, are pretty unique. They can find their way home from very far away, and have many other interesting traits.

  • They might have been the first birds that people tamed. They are shown in art from 4500 BCE Mesopotamia.
  • Pigeons do well in towns because they like concrete and stone.
  • There might be more than a million pigeons just in New York City.
  • Pigeons were used to send and receive messages. This was crucial during wartimes. In fact, they may have saved thousands of lives over the course of history.
  • Pigeons were often used to send SOS messages from sinking ships. 
  • They can see very well. They can even see ultraviolet light, which has helped them find survivors of ships that had gone down.

Feathered Family Tree

As you may know, birds are related to dinosaurs. In fact, Polly’s closest living relative is the crocodile! 

Polly Became Popular During The Pandemic

If there was one good thing about the pandemic, it’s the fact that many pets benefited. Many people adopted pets during lockdowns. Our animal friends were also happy to have their owners home more often. Bird ownership rose during that period.

They Inspire Devotion

To be fair, all of our animal friends have fans. Bird lovers, on the other hand, are known for always being there for their pets.

  • The average number of birds in a family is 2.46.
  • Five out of ten bird owners said that their birds were on a special diet. On the other hand, only about 10% of pet dogs and cats are. 
  • People who owned birds were also more likely to give their pets vitamins. (Ask your Boulder, CO vet for tips on bird vitamins.)
  • About 60% of bird owners said they had spent more money on Polly in the past year.

Dance In The Sky

Have you ever seen When a group of swallows moves together, twisting and twirling as though they were dancing? This beautiful phenomenon is known as a murmuration. Researchers think that birds do this to make it hard for attackers to hone in on individual birds. What’s even more interesting is the fact that birds may be able to make patterns by reacting to biological radio waves. Each bird may be sending signals to those nearest to it. The message spreads through the flock, resulting in a sort of choreography.

They Can Dance 

Have you ever seen videos of pet birds dancing happily to their favorite songs? Some of our winged friends really like to get down!  Cockatoos are particularly known for boogying. 

Polly’s A Bit Extra

Every bird is interesting in its own way, but parrots are especially interesting. As far back as 4,000 years ago, parrots have been very important to people. Indeed, Alexander the Great brought some back from the Indian region. Following a few hundred years, the Romans began teaching Polly Latin.

Here are some interesting facts about these pretty birds.

  • Some parrots can use tools. The University of York and the University of St. Andrews researched how Greater Vasa parrots broke cockleshells with pit dates and pebbles.
  • The psittacine order is made up of parrots.
  • Because their beaks are hooked, they are also called hookbills. 
  • They are zygodactylous. Parrots and most other birds have four toes on each foot. Parrots’ feet are a little different because they have two toes that point forward and two that point backward. 
  • Almost one-third of all parrot species are in danger of going extinct.
  • Up to 99 percent of Ghana’s native African grey parrots have been killed by logging.
  • They’re quite intelligent! An African grey parrot called Alex was said to have about the same IQ as a 5-year-old child. 
  • Parrots’ beaks can crack pretty much any nut in the world.
  • The little Pygmy parrot is the tiniest member of this colorful family. Pygmy parrots are only 3 inches long, and they eat mushrooms instead of bugs.
  • Researchers at Northeastern University, the University of Glasgow, and MIT taught parrots to talk to each other through video chat as part of an experiment. Most of the birds seemed to enjoy making online friends.
  • They might live longer than people. Larger parrots, like macaws, can live for 100 years or more, while smaller ones, like parakeets, may only live for ten to twenty years. (You should definitely think about this before getting one.)
  • They get very attached to their humans, and can become quite distressed if separated from them. 

They Might Use Paint By Numbers

Did you know that blue jays like to gather paint chips? Even more curious: they prefer lighter tones. They aren’t acting this way by chance; they are going for the calcium in the paint. Limestone, which is often found in paint, is a great source of calcium.

It Might Get Loud

Ever wonder what the biggest bird in the world is? That would be the white bellbird. This pretty bird lives in the Amazon jungle, and apparently decided that the best way to find mates is to be very, very loud about the fact that they are looking for love. Another contender would be the Moluccan Cockatoo. These guys can get as loud as 135 decibels.

Do you have questions about caring for pet birds? Contact us here at Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO animal hospital, anytime!