Portal:Birds

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Introduction

Bird Diversity 2013.png

Birds, also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs, are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the world's most numerically successful class of tetrapods, with approximately ten thousand living species, more than half of these being passerine, or "perching" birds. Birds have wings whose development varies according to species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in some birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species of birds. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.

The fossil record demonstrates that birds are modern feathered dinosaurs, having evolved from earlier feathered dinosaurs within the theropod group, which are traditionally placed within the saurischian dinosaurs. The closest living relatives of birds are the crocodilians. Primitive bird-like dinosaurs that lie outside class Aves proper, in the broader group Avialae, have been found dating back to the mid-Jurassic period, around 170 million years ago. Many of these early "stem-birds", such as Archaeopteryx, retained primitive characteristics such as teeth and long bony tails. DNA-based evidence finds that birds diversified dramatically around the time of the Cretaceous–Palaeogene extinction event 66 million years ago, which killed off the pterosaurs and all the non-avian dinosaur lineages. But birds, especially those in the southern continents, survived this event and then migrated to other parts of the world while diversifying during periods of global cooling. This makes them the sole surviving dinosaurs according to cladistics.

Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animals; several bird species make and use tools, and many social species pass on knowledge across generations, which is considered a form of culture. Many species migrate annually over great distances. Birds are social, communicating with visual signals, calls, and bird songs, and participating in such social behaviours as cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird species are socially monogamous (referring to social living arrangement, distinct from genetic monogamy), usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, but rarely for life. Other species have breeding systems that are polygynous (arrangement of one male with many females) or, rarely, polyandrous (arrangement of one female with many males). Birds produce offspring by laying eggs which are fertilised through sexual reproduction. They are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching. Some birds, such as hens, lay eggs even when not fertilised, which do not produce offspring.

Many species of birds are economically important as food for human consumption and raw material in manufacturing, with domesticated and undomesticated birds (poultry and game) being important sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Songbirds, parrots, and other species are popular as pets. Guano (bird excrement) is harvested for use as a fertiliser. Birds figure throughout human culture. About 120 to 130 species have become extinct due to human activity since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then. Human activity threatens about 1,200 bird species with extinction, though efforts are underway to protect them. Recreational birdwatching is an important part of the ecotourism industry.

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Selected general bird topic

Painting of a lethal "deadfall" bird trap by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1565

Bird trapping techniques to capture wild birds include a wide range of techniques that have their origins in the hunting of birds for food. While hunting for food does not require birds to be caught alive, some trapping techniques capture birds without harming them and are of use in ornithology research. Wild birds may also be trapped for their display in captivity in zoological gardens or for keeping as a pet. Bird trapping was formerly unregulated, but to protect bird populations most countries have specific laws and regulations. Read more...

Selected taxon

White-necked rockfowl (Picathartes gymnocephalus)

The picathartes, rockfowl or bald crows are a small genus of two passerine bird species forming the family Picathartidae found in the rain-forests of tropical west and central Africa. They have unfeathered heads, and feed on insects and invertebrates picked from damp rocky areas. Both species are totally non-migratory, being dependent on a specialised rocky jungle habitat. Both species are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List. Read more...

Topics

Anatomy:   Anatomy • Skeleton • Flight • Eggs • Feathers • Plumage

Evolution and extinction:   Evolution • Archaeopteryx • Hybridisation • Late Quaternary prehistoric birds • Fossils • Taxonomy • Extinction

Behaviour:   Singing • Intelligence • Migration • Reproduction • Nesting • Incubation • Brood parasites

Bird orders:   Struthioniformes • Tinamiformes • Anseriformes • Accipitriformes • Galliformes • Gaviiformes • Podicipediformes • Procellariiformes • Sphenisciformes • Pelecaniformes • Ciconiiformes • Phoenicopteriformes • Falconiformes • Gruiformes • Charadriiformes • Pteroclidiformes • Columbiformes • Psittaciformes • Cuculiformes • Strigiformes • Caprimulgiformes • Apodiformes • Coraciiformes • Piciformes • Trogoniformes • Coliiformes • Passeriformes

Bird lists:   Families and orders • Lists by region

Birds and humans:   Ringing • Ornithology • Bird collections • Birdwatching • Birdfeeding • Conservation • Aviculture

Quotes

--Aristotle ...All quotes
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Resources

Free online resources:

  • SORA: The Searchable Online Research Archive (SORA) has decades worth of archives of the following journals: The Auk, The Condor, Journal of Field Ornithology, North American Bird Bander, Studies in Avian Biology, Pacific Coast Avifauna, and The Wilson Bulletin. Coverage ends around 2000. The ability to search all journals or browse exists on the front page.
  • Notornis: The Journal of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand covers New Zealand and the South Pacific.
  • New Zealand Journal of Ecology: This journal often publishes bird-related articles. Like Notornis, this journal is concerned with New Zealand and surrounding areas.
  • Marine Ornithology: Published by the numerous seabird research groups, Marine Ornithology is specific and goes back many years.
  • BirdLife International: The Data Zone has species accounts for every species, although threatened species and some key groups have greater detail with others only having status and evaluation.
  • Author Index: This is a good source for binomial authorities for taxoboxes.

There is also Birds of North America, Cornell University's massive project collecting information on every breeding bird in the ABA area. It is available for US$40 a year.

For more sources, including printed sources, see WikiProject Birds.

WikiProjects

Selected images

Selected bird anatomy topic

White-eyes are named for the conspicuous white eye-rings found in the majority of species. Their genus name Zosterops likewise means "eye-girdle".

The eye-ring of a bird is a ring of tiny feathers that surrounds the orbital ring, a ring of bare skin immediately surrounding a bird's eye. The eye-ring is often decorative, and its colour may contrast with adjoining plumage. The ring of feathers is sometimes incomplete, forming an eye arc. In the absence of a conspicuous eye-ring, the orbital ring of a bird is often referred to as the eye-ring. The bare orbital ring may be hardened or fleshy, or may form an eye-wattle. These are useful field marks in many bird species, and the eye-ringed flatbill, eye-ringed tody-tyrant and eye-ringed thistletail are examples of species named for either of these. Read more...

Selected species

Emu in profile
The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is also the second-largest extant bird in the world by height. The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 m (6 ft) in height. The emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest and arid areas. Emus can travel great distances at a fast, economical trot and can sprint at 50 km/h (30 mph) for some distance at a time. They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects. The emu subspecies that inhabited Tasmania became extinct following the European settlement of Australia in 1788. The distribution of the mainland subspecies has also been affected by human activities. Once common on the east coast, the emu is now uncommon, while development of agriculture and provision of water for stock in the interior of the continent have increased the range of the emu in arid regions. Emus are farmed for their meat, oil and leather.


Did you know

  • ...that sexual size dimorphism in the brown songlark is among the most pronounced in any bird, with males as much as 2.3 times heavier than females?
  • ...that rufous whistler birds, unlike all other whistler birds, never forage on the ground but high up in trees or other high places?
  • ...that the bill of the magpie duck (pictured) becomes green as the bird gets older, and its black crown may go completely white?

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Taxonomy of Aves

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