Blog Archive: Fun Facts

Birdorable Mississippi Kite

Facts About Kites

July 19th, 2015 in Birds of Prey, Fun Facts No comments
Birdorable Mississippi Kite

Here are some interesting facts about kites:

  • Kites belong in the Accipitridae* family of birds of prey. They are divided into two subfamilies. Elaninae kites are sometimes considered to be "hovering kites" and are generally smaller in size. Milvinae kites may be known as "soaring kites" and tend to be larger birds.
  • There are approximately 22 recognized species of kite in the world. Eight belong to the Elaninae subfamily, while 14 are Milvinae kites.
  • There are four species of kite found in North America: Swallow-tailed Kite; White-tailed Kite; Snail Kite; and Mississippi Kite.

Mississippi Kite #1 6-10-15
Mississippi Kite by Larry Smith [CC BY 2.0]

  • Not all kites are called "kites". The Bat Hawk of Africa and Asia is an Elaninae kite with a falcon-like profile and a preference for dining on bats. The Black-breasted Buzzard of Australia is an eagle-like bird that is sometimes considered to belong in a different family or subfamily altogether.
  • Three different raptors in the subfamily Perninae are called kites, though they are not closely related to the other kites. They are the Grey-headed Kite, White-collared Kite, and Hook-billed Kite.
  • Some kites are migratory, while others are year-round residents throughout their range. The Mississippi Kite, for example, breeds across the southeastern United States and winters as far south as Argentina, while the Snail Kite is a permanent resident across its range.
  • Kites are found on all continents except for Antarctica.
  • Black Kites are found on four continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. They are common throughout their range and may be the most abundant species of raptor in the world.
  • Most kite species lack global population concern, though some species have local issues (like the Snail Kite in Florida). The Letter-winged Kite of Australia and the Red Kite of Europe and Africa both have a conservation status of Near Threatened.

Red Kite 43
Red Kite by Tony Hisgett [CC BY 2.0]

* Note that different taxonomical classifications may organize these and other birds in another way. As scientists learn more about birds and DNA, changes are noted and accepted and eventually integrated or rejected by various naming organizations and protocols.

Birdorable Green Heron

Green Heron Facts

July 9th, 2015 in Fun Facts 3 comments
Birdorable Green Heron hunting

Here are some interesting facts about the Green Heron, one of our newest Birdorable birds!

The Green Heron has had some interesting colloquial names, including Fly-up-the-creek, Poke, Chalkline, Indian Hen, and Chucklehead.

Some Green Herons migrate, and some don't. Green Herons are year-round residents in most of the southern coastal parts of their range. Other birds migrate from their nesting grounds in the north a short distance south for the winter. They are considered to be mid-distance migrants.

Green Herons are one of the few bird species known to use tools. They will bait for fish using things like bread, leaves, or feathers to try to lure in fish. This video shows a Green Heron using an insect as bait:


There are several collective nouns used for herons. You might see a hedge of herons, a sedge of herons, or a siege of herons.

The Green Heron was chosen to be the official Bird of the Year 2015 by the American Birding Association.

The oldest wild Green Heron on record lived to the age of 7 years and 11 months. This was discovered via data collected from bird banding.

The Green Heron used to be considered the same species as the Striated Heron and the Galapagos or Lava Heron. The species was then known as the Green-backed Heron. Some taxonomies still treat them as subspecies.

Green Herons may nest away from other herons, alone, or in a small group, or in a larger colony. Many heron species are colonial nesters but the Green Heron or may not nest this way, depending on availablity and defendability of feeding territory.

Green Herons have a shaggy crest that can be raised at will by the bird.

Green Heron (Juvenile)Green Heron by Andy Morffew [CC BY-ND 2.0]

The Green Heron was added to Birdorable on June 22, 2015, and joined us as our 610th species.

Birdorable Common Crane

Crane Extremes! More Facts for Crane Week

April 4th, 2015 in Cranes, Fun Facts No comments
Birdorable cranes from around the world

We're wrapping up our week-long celebration of cranes with some more cool crane facts. These extreme facts show how diverse this amazing family of birds can be.

Oldest Crane
The average lifespan for wild cranes is typically between 20 years and 30 years. The longevity record for all crane species goes to the Siberian Crane. A bird living at the National Zoological Park of the Smithsonian Institute reached the ripe old age of 62! That bird passed in 1968. Another Siberian Crane, named Wolf, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for reaching 83 years of age!

Most Abundant
There are more Sandhill Cranes than any other species of crane in the world. There are an estimated 650,000 Sandhill Cranes found across North America.

Longest Migration
The Siberian Crane may fly up to 10,000 miles round trip in a year. Some birds breed in western Siberia and winter as far south as parts of India.

Most Endangered
With an estimated wild population of just over 430 birds, the Whooping Crane is the least abundant of all crane species. They have a conservation status of Endangered and are the subjects of conservation efforts from several groups. Whooping Cranes do breed in captivity and there are over 165 individuals at zoological facilities throughout the world.

Fancy Footwork
While all crane species perform some kind of dancing ritual as part of courtship and pair-bonding, Red-crowned Cranes are especially known for their fancy footwork. Pairs of Red-crowned Cranes will duet as they dance, moving rhythmically as they approach one another.



Highest Flyer
The Common Crane is one high-flying species! One bird was recorded flying at an altitude of up to 33,000 feet over the Himalayas. This record is second only to the Rüppell's Vulture flying up to an altitude of 37,000 feet.

Ancient Species
Sandhill Cranes have been around a very long time. In fact, their fossil history is among the longest of any living bird. Sandhill Crane fossils up to 2.5 million years old have been found.

Can't get enough of these amazing birds? Be sure to check out our great collection of cute and original crane apparel and gifts.

Birdorable Siberian Crane

Interesting Crane Facts

March 30th, 2015 in Cranes, Fun Facts No comments

It's Crane Week, which means we're celebrating the cranes of the world! Today's post contains some interesting and fun crane FAQs.

Where do cranes live?
They have a nearly cosmopolitan distribution. Cranes are found on all continents except for Antarctica and South America.

How big are cranes?
Cranes are large birds. The smallest species, the Demoiselle Crane, is around 36 inches (91 centimeters) tall. The tallest crane is the Sarus Crane which reaches 69 inches (176 centimeters) or more in height. The heaviest crane is another species, the Red-crowned Crane, which may weigh up to 26 lb or 12 kg.

Size of Demoiselle Crane vs. Sarus Crane

Why do cranes have bare faces?
Most species of crane have featherless heads. They can change the intensity of color in the bare skin by manipulating facial muscles; this is used to communicate between the birds. Two species of crane have feathered heads: the Blue Crane and the Demoiselle Crane.

Bare skin of Birdorable Wattled Crane

Why are cranes endangered?
Of the 15 species of crane in the world, all but four are considered to have some level of threat to their survival. Seven species are considered vulnerable to extinction, 3 are endangered, and one is critically endangered. Only four species are placed in the category of least concern.

Most cranes rely on wetlands for feeding and nesting. Global decline in wetland habitat is devastating to these birds. The species face various other threats, depending on their range. Other threats include secondary poisoning, illegal poaching, and pollution.

What do cranberries have to do with cranes?
The word cranberry comes from what European settlers called the fruit when they came to the new world: craneberry. In their eyes, parts of the plant's flower, stem, and petals resembled the neck, head, and beak of their familiar Common Crane.

Cranberry plant and Common Crane by Birdorable

What is the collective noun for cranes?
A collective noun is a word used to name a group of the same things. A group of birds is known as a flock, while a group of crows is a murder, and a group of geese is a gaggle. What about cranes? A group of cranes may be known as a sedge of cranes, or as a siege of cranes.

Birdorable Monk Parakeet

Fun Facts about Monk Parakeets

March 18th, 2015 in Fun Facts, Parakeets 2 comments
Birdorable Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeets, also known as Quaker Parrots in aviculture, are medium-sized parakeets with a mostly green plumage, gray at the forehead and throat, and a pale pink bill. Here are some facts about these cute birds:

  • The native range of Monk Parakeets is around subtropical parts of Argentina and surrounding countries in South America.
  • There are many self-sustaining feral populations of Monk Parakeets outside of South America, mainly in Europe and North America.
  • The Monk Parakeet was brought to the United States in the late 1960s as a pet. The first feral Monk Parakeet to be recorded in the U.S. was in New York in 1967. Many birds escaped or were intentionally released, and populations were allowed to proliferate. By the early 1970s, Monk Parakeets were established in seven states, and by 1995 they had spread to eight more. There are now thought to be approximately 100,000 in Florida alone.
  • The Monk Parakeet is the only parrot that builds a stick nest rather than using a hole in a tree. These birds typically build their nest in a tree or on a man-made structure.
  • These huge nests attract many other tenants, including birds of prey such as the Spot-winged Falconet or ducks such as the Yellow-billed Teal.
  • Monk Parakeets often breed colonially and build a single large nest with multiple entrances for each pair. In the wild these colonies can become quite large, with nests that can reach the size of a small car.
  • There are four recognized subspecies:
    • Myiopsitta monachus monachus -- Lives from southeastern Argentina and Uruguay and is the largest subspecies;
    • Myiopsitta monachus calita -- Native to the Andean foothills from southeastern Bolivia to Paraguay and northwestern Argentina. Has wings more prominently blue and darker gray head than other subspecies;
    • Myiopsitta monachus cotorra -- Nests in cliffs in southwestern Brazil and has less yellow below and is brighter overall;
    • Myiopsitta (monachus) luchsi (aka Cliff Parakeet) -- Has no scalloping on breast, underparts are brighter yellow and lives in the Andean valleys of central Bolivia.
  • The Cliff Parakeet subspecies may eventually be recognized as its own species again, as it has been on-and-off since it was first described in 1868.
  • The lifespan of a Monk Parakeet is 15 to 20 years in the wild and 25 to 30 years in captivity.
  • Other names for this bird are: Quaker Parrot, Monk Parrot or Quaker Parakeet.
  • A group of parakeets is collectively called a "chatter" or a "flock" of parakeets.
  • Quaker Parrots are popular pet birds for their comical personalities and energetic nature, but they are also notoriously loud and noisy birds, so take caution before rushing out to get one. They can live to be 30 years old, so caring for one is a long commitment. The birds are also illegal to keep in some U.S. states, especially in the south due to the established feral populations.
  • The Monk Parakeet was added to Birdorable in August 2007 and we have hundreds of original customizable gifts with this cute bird. Check out our cute Monk Parakeet gifts or our other Birdorable parrots and parakeets.
cotorritas argentinas 04 Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus
Photo by Ferran Pestaña (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Monk Parakeet / Myiopsitta monachus / 翁鸚哥(オキナインコ)
Photo by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) (CC BY 2.0)
Birdorable Sabine's Gull

Cool Facts about Gulls: Frequently Asked Questions

February 6th, 2015 in Gulls, Fun Facts 2 comments

We're celebrating the world's gulls! Today we are sharing some FAQs about gulls.

Why do gulls stand on one leg?
Gulls aren't the only birds that stand on one leg. Many species exhibit this behavior, and the reason usually has to do with regulating body temperature. Feathers on a bird's body help to keep it warm in cold temperatures, but when the legs are unfeathered, as in gulls, the bird can lose precious body heat through the exposed skin. Keeping one leg tucked under body feathers while standing on the other helps the bird to keep warm.

Birdorable Ring-billed Gull standing on one leg

Why are gull wingtips often black or dark?
Melanin is a natural pigment found in animals; it occurs in mammals, birds, reptiles, and other organisims. However, melanin isn't just about color. Melanin can also strengthen. The melanin in the wingtips of a bird helps to protect the feathers from wear and tear. And it also makes them black. Besides gulls, many raptor species have black wingtips, and some otherwise all-white birds like White Ibises, Snow Geese, American White Pelicans, and Wood Storks also have black wingtips.

Why do gulls stamp their feet?
It is thought that gulls tap their feet to imitate falling rain. The sensation of incoming rain "tricks" earthworms or other subterranean creatures to come to the surface to avoid drowning. When the worms reach the surface, they become an easy meal for the clever gull. This kind of "worm stomping" is the original "rain dance"!

What is the difference between a gull and a seagull?
Gull is the common name given to seabirds in the family Laridae. Often these birds are referred to as seagulls, but the term is not used by most biologists or ornithologists. The most common gull in Australia, the Silver Gull, is often called "seagull" by locals. But in taxonomical terms, there is no such bird as a seagull.

Do gulls have webbed feet?
Yes, gulls have webbed feet. Though some gulls live inland and may spend a lot of time away from large bodies of water, many gulls spend much of their time in and around water. Having webbed feet helps them maneuver efficiently in the water. However, this adaptation does limit their ability to carry items with their feet.

Webbed feet on a gull

What is special about gull jaws?
Gulls are opportunistic feeders, meaning they are able to take advantage of a huge variety of food items. They may hunt for live prey, they might steal food from others, or they might scavange scraps from garbage dumps or dead animals (carrion). Something that helps them take the most advantage of eating opportunities is the fact that they have unhinging jaws. This gives them the ability to consume very large items.

What is the collective noun for gull?
A collective noun is used to name a group of something. A group of birds is commonly known as a flock. A group of crows is a murder, a group of finches is a charm, and a group of geese is a gaggle. What about gulls? A group of gulls is known as a colony.

Do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below or go to our Meet the Birds area and learn about each of our Birdorable gulls. And don't forget to check out our cute gull gifts. Here are some samples below.