Our planet is teeming with life, and these hundreds of millions of lifeforms are divided in to different categories depending on how they evolved and adapted to their surroundings. We’ve got mammals, then subspecies of mammals like apes and cats. We’ve got reptiles, then subspecies of reptiles like snakes and lizards. We’ve got microbial life that is so varied it would be impossible for us to list enough subcategories to do them justice. We have aquatic life that lives in a completely different world to ours; one where gravity rarely matters and everyone is able to move in three dimensions. And then, we have our feathery friends, the birds.
Birds have fascinated us ever since we gained the ability and the free time to ponder the existence of the other species we share this world with. Out of all the kinds of living things we can find out in the wild, birds are unique in that the majority of them are able to fly. Truly fly; not the buzzing around of most insects, not the leaping between trees of various monkeys and apes, but actual true flight. The ability to jump off a high cliff without a care in the world because you can open your majestic wings at any time and catch flight. But being able to soar through the skies unaided isn’t the only thing that makes birds so fascinating. Not by a long shot.
Some Birds are Astoundingly Smart
While we like to put ourselves on a pedestal because we are the first species to truly develop sentience and the brainpower to comprehend our existence and greatly manipulate the space around us, there are a handful of other species that aren’t that far behind. Octopodes and dolphins are two extremely intelligent aquatic species, while elephants and some species of apes are the ones to turn to when it comes to land-based animals. But birds, they pack a hefty mental punch.
We know how parrots are smart enough to mimic human speech, and even understand it to some degree. But you could argue that dogs are able to understand what some words might mean as well, and you’d be right. But what about ravens. Those beautiful black birds are in a league of their own. Ravens are so intelligent; they are able to memorize the faces of people who hurt them or people who helped them by feeding them or something similarly good-natured.
But that’s not all, ravens even have enough communicative skill to actually be able to tell other ravens how to recognize people they know about. We’re not entirely sure how they communicate this info, but they do. They also have a justice system of their own; where a raven that has wronged a group of ravens (called a murder) is surrounded by other ravens in a circle and then pecked and beat up until he can be left to die without a chance of recovery.
Ravens even play games amongst themselves; like catching gusts of wind and seeing who can get launched the highest. They even get help from other species in acquiring food. They may bring over and place nuts in a pothole so that a car runs over them and cracks them open, or they may assist wolves in their hunt by calling out where the running prey is, so that they can get a share of the carcass once the wolves have successfully killed their prey. Oh and, ravens mimic human speech better than parrots too.
Budgies Can Catch Yawns
You know that moment when someone in a room yawns and then shortly after everyone is yawning as well? This common occurrence is called ‘contagious yawning’, and is believed to be a sign of showing empathy or group solidarity among not just human beings, but several other animals like chimps and dogs as well. Birds aren’t susceptible to this, except for the cute little parakeets called budgies.
These adorable little birds are a common house pet for many, and are liked for their relatively high intelligence and playful nature alongside their cute looks. However, it seems budgies might be the only birds in the world – and maybe even the only non-mammal species – to actually “suffer” from contagious yawning. While no other non-mammal species has yet been observed to yawn in response to others yawning, budgies have. So, if you’ve got a couple of budgies at home, try yawning in front of them next time and see if they respond.
Birds Descended from Dinosaurs
Okay, this might be something you may actually be aware of, but it’s too interesting to not bring up just in case you’re not. Yep, you read that right. Birds are indeed the descendants of dinosaurs. While so many dinosaur species were wiped out in a mass extinction event (most likely the humongous meteor that smashed into the planet), the surviving ones eventually evolved into the flying, feathery little animals you see today.
In fact, velociraptors – one of the most recognized species of dinosaur thanks to movie franchises like Jurassic Park – actually had feathers and were much smaller than portrayed in the movies. The third installment actually made some slight changes to their velociraptor design; and added some feathers to more accurately portray the fascinating beasts. Keeping the intelligence of birds today in mind, one can only wonder if dinosaurs would have inherited the Earth as the most intelligent species had that pesky meteor not messed everything up. Then again, looking at chickens, maybe not. And speaking of chickens…
Chickens Commonly Engage in Cannibalism
Chickens are real jerks, and anyone who has kept some will most likely be able to verify that sentiment. Though chickens are usually just fed a diet of grains and some vegetables, they are opportunistic birds that will take any opportunity they get to eat anything they can get their beaks on. And if this means devouring a fellow chicken, so be it.
Chickens can’t necessarily be called a hundred percent pure herbivores; as they also eat small insects like worms. But, if given meat, chickens would very gladly eat it up. And if a chicken or a group of chickens spots a fellow of theirs slightly hurt or injured in any way, they will take that chance to jump it and tear it apart to feast on it without giving it a second thought.
Some Species of Birds Stick with a Single Mate for Life
While it is common amongst the animal kingdom to mate with whoever possible in an attempt to produce as many children as possible to keep the species alive, some birds take a different approach to that and mate for life. A few species of birds, like bald eagles, scarlet macaws, and Atlantic puffins, pick a mate they like and then spend the rest of their lives together. Some birds even mate just once or twice, then just spend the rest of their days with their chosen mate without any expectations of producing more children.
Each subdivision of life found on our beautiful planet has amazing facts unique to it, and each species has something special going for it. Our fascination with birds is only natural however; as the ability to fly has been something that man has dreamt of and fantasized about in art and literature for many centuries. But some species come with some sinister abilities as well; as we talk about in our post on the guide to the deadliest animals on the planet. But then there are also species of animals that are completely different to how people would normally perceive them to be; like snakes that are non-venomous. It’s a truly fascinating world out there.