It is very difficult not to be in awe of birds. Not only are they extremely varied in colour and size, they are masters of flight. There are nearly 10,000 species across the globe, found in all habitats—even Antarctica. They are specially adapted for flight with wings, powerful breast muscles, feathers, and light skeletons. While most can fly, there are exceptions such as penguins, emus, ostriches and cassowaries.
Birds lay eggs which often require adults to build a nest and incubate the eggs until they hatch. Nests are then used to house the young until they develop enough to leave the nest and find their own food. The Malleefowl, however, is an exception.
Adult Malleefowl will build a mound of sand and leaf matter, opening and closing the mound to regulate the temperature. When the chicks hatch they are very advanced and already have a full covering of feathers. They struggle up through the sand and fend for themselves. Within 24 hours they are strong enough to fly.
Many birds have excellent eyesight (especially raptors like hawks and eagles) and they have amazing homing skills. In the cooler months, some birds will migrate to warmer climates, covering thousands of kilometres in one long, exhausting journey. They may also migrate for the breeding season.
There are about 800 species of birds found in or around Australia. These range from flightless birds like the Emu, Cassowary and Little Penguins, to hawks and eagles, ducks and seabirds. One of the most recognised bird species in Australia is the cockatoo. In Western Australia, Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Cockatoos are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. A tree needs to be at least 100-years-old to develop a hollow large enough to house their eggs and young. The logging of forests is having a serious impact on their numbers. They also have to compete with introduced pests such as Rainbow Lorikeets and European Bees who take over their tree hollows.
Click on the birds below to learn more about them.