Did you know that some species of bird feed their chicks milk? It's true, but it's not the same kind of milk that mammal mothers feed their young.
This baby bird food is secreted from the lining of the parent bird's crop and then regurgitated to the baby birds. It is high in protein and fat as well as other components important for their growing chicks to consume, like anti-oxidants, ("good") bacteria, and substances to improve the immune system.
All species of pigeons and doves feed crop milk to their young -- for these species the substance is called pigeon milk. Flamingos also feed their young a type of milk, though production occurs in more of the upper digestive tract than just the crop. Male Emperor Penguins produce a similar substance to feed their chicks when the mother bird is away at the time of hatching.
In pigeons and doves, parent birds begin to produce the milk days before their eggs hatch. The chicks, called squabs, eat only crop milk for the first week after hatching. Afterwards other foods are introduced, after being softened inside the parent bird's crop.
If you live in the United States then you will probably be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. And like many families, chances are you will have a turkey on the table. But what do you really know about these birds? Did you know that Wild Turkeys sleep in trees, can fly up to 55 miles per hour, and that they’re highly intelligent and social animals? Here are some cool facts about one of the most famous birds in North America.
Many people think that, because they are so heavy, turkeys are slow and that they stick to the ground. But in fact Wild Turkeys have powerful legs and can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly as fast as 55 miles per hour.
Wild Turkeys sleep in trees. Even domesticated birds try to sleep in trees when they get the chance. This keeps them safe from predators, such as coyotes, foxes and raccoons, as not only people have a taste for turkey.
Male turkeys are substantially larger than females. They look different too: the male’s feathers are iridescent red, green, copper, bronze, purple and gold, while the female is much duller overall and mostly brown and grey. This difference is called sexual dimorphism.
A turkey’s gender can be determined by its droppings! Males produce spiral-shaped poop, while females produce “J” shaped poop. Also, the diameter of the droppings increase as the turkey gets older.
A popular story is that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird, instead of the Bald Eagle, but this is actually not quite true -- at least not officially. Back in 1784, Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter disapproving of a drawing that had been produced of an eagle that looked liked a turkey and that such a bird would actually be preferable to the eagle as national symbol. As Franklin explained, the Bald Eagle had a “bad moral character” and was a “rank coward” that merely steals its food from other birds. So while it is true that he floated the idea that the turkey might be a better bird for a national symbol, it was only in this personal letter and in relation to the drawing. He never actually advocated this notion publicly.
Did you know that male turkeys have “beards”? Male turkeys are called gobblers and the hairlike bristles that grow from the center of their chest get about 9 inches in length. In some populations 10 to 20% of females have a beard too, although it’s usually shorter and thinner than that of the male.
The color of the Turkey’s head and throat changes depending on its mood. It can change from gray to shades of red, white and blue when the bird is excited or distressed. During mating season, the male’s wattle turns a scarlet red. The fleshy object over the male’s beak is called a ‘snood’.
The gizzard, which is part of the turkey’s stomach, contains tiny stones that the bird previously swallowed. Also known as gastroliths, these little stones help the bird to digest its food, since birds don’t have teeth. They actually have two stomachs. The first is called the glandular stomach, where food is broken down. After this the food entered the turkey’s gizzard.
A turkey has 5000 to 6000 feathers. 18 of those are tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan.
Each turkey has a unique voice, allowing birds in a group to recognize each other. Turkeys create lasting social bonds and are very affectionate. The turkey’s gobble can be heard a mile away. Only males gobble. The females, or hens, communicate through clucks and small chirp-like noises.
Turkeys have very good geographic skills and are able to learn the precise details of an area over 1,000 acres in size.
Looking for something to do this Thanksgiving while the rest of the family is preparing dinner or watching a football game? Then grab your crayons and start coloring because we have a great coloring page for you with our cute cartoon Wild Turkey! Show your love for Wild Turkeys with this coloring page from Birdorable and have a wonderful day tomorrow with your friends and family.
Birds don't wear diapers. But in some songbirds, babies expel their waste in a membrane-filled sac, which is then removed from the nest by a parent.
Keeping the nest clean isn't just about good hygiene. Removal of waste reduces the chances that predators will find (by scent) the vulnerable nestlings. It may also help to prevent illnesses developing in the baby birds. Fecal sacs are removed from the nest, sometimes right as they are being produced! Some baby birds give a 'signal' to indicate they are about to eliminate (poop). The below video shows a baby American Robin shifting around in its nest to expose its backside. The adult waits for the sac and then removes it immediately.
Some baby birds leave their fecal sacs along the outer edge of the nest for later removal, as can be seen in this video of a Carolina Wren nest, though the adult happens to remove the sac immediately in the clip. Sometimes the need to eliminate comes immediately after feeding, which can be seen in clearly in this video. Most people aren't even aware that this amazing baby bird "diaper service" exists. But if you live among Common Grackles, and you happen to have a swimming pool, you just might be painfully aware of fecal sacs. Grackles are naturally inclined to deposit fecal sacs in water - streams, ponds or rivers, traditionally. However, if a swimming pool is convenient, it might just end up being a favorite "sewer service" for neighborhood grackles!
Malleefowl are large ground-dwelling birds that live in Australia. They have a remarkable reproductive cycle that includes up to 11 months per year spent building, tending and maintaining a large nest mound used for incubation. Malleefowl mounds are made up primarily of compost, piled many layers deep, and a top layer of sand, used for insulation. The eggs lay on top of the compost and are protected by the sand layer. The mounds may be used for several breeding seasons and may grow to over 70 feet in circumference and over three feet deep.
Malleefowl mound graphic by Peter Halasz
After the eggs are laid, the male tends to the nest and makes adjustments to the amount of soil within the compost layer to maintain a constant temperature of 33°C (91.4°F). He checks the temperature by probing his beak into the nest chamber! This amazing feat is why the bird is known as the "thermometer bird" in the Dutch and German languages. Here is a short video showing a temperature check:
Malleefowl checking the nest mound temperature by grazza2106
Incubation depends on the temperature inside the mount remaining steady. Fluctuations caused by rainfall and other factors lead to incubation time lasting anywhere from 50 to nearly 100 days. When the chicks are ready to hatch, they use their strong feet to break the eggshell. Digging through the sand layer is a struggle that may take 15 hours! Once they reach the surface, they take a deep breath and begin their life, totally independent of their parents. Malleefowl chicks can run just an hour after emerging from the nest mound, and are able to fly after just one day! Here is a short video showing a Malleefowl chick who has just emerged from the nest mound:
With their special water-resistant plumage, ducks are made for water. But did you know that several species of duck actually require trees when it comes to breeding? Some ducks are cavity nesters. We've recently added one of these cute little cavity-nesting ducks to Birdorable. The Bufflehead is one of the smallest species of duck to live in North America. They're just about 14 inches long, and they use cavities excavated by Northern Flicker woodpeckers! They also use nestboxes, as in the photo below.
Besides the Bufflehead, some other ducks that nest in cavities or nest boxes are: Hooded Merganser; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Wood Duck; Common Goldeneye; and Common Merganser.
Did you know that all penguins practice fasting during the year? Prior to fasting, penguins build up a thick fat layer which will provide energy during the fast period. Penguins fast for two reasons. First, some species don't leave their nesting grounds during the entire courtship, breeding and incubation period. Their food is found in the water so they are unable to feed if they don't leave the nesting grounds. Penguins also fast during seasonal molt.
When their new waterproof feathers are just growing in, they are unable to enter the water to feed. Different penguin species have different fast lengths. The male Emperor Penguin has the longest fasting period during breeding season. While preparing and caring for chicks, a male Emperor Penguin will fast for an incredible 90 to 120 days!