Birds capture the imaginations of kids. After all, who isn’t fascinated by the idea of flight? The ability to zoom from place to place might be what first intrigues kids. But, there are plenty more fun facts about birds to pique their interest. If you know a kid who thinks birds are cool (or are trying to convince one who doesn’t), here are some of the coolest facts about birds all kids should know.
Birds are real, live dinosaurs
Luckily for young dinosaur enthusiasts, birds are better than skeletons in a museum – they are real, live dinosaurs on earth today. Modern day birds are descendants of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, a group which includes Tyrannosaurus Rex and velociraptors. Dinosaurs had feathers well before birds even existed, and sported them even before there were winged dinosaurs. While most dinosaurs evolved to be larger and larger, the birds’ ancestral line gradually became smaller and smaller and eventually took flight. You can read more about the evolution of birds here.
See also: How to Take Your Kids on Bird Walks
Some birds can fly for days or months without stopping
Scientists have recently discovered that the common swift can stay airborne for up to 200 days at a time. In the air, these birds can eat, drink, mate and possibly even nap. Researchers suspect common swift fly to altitudes of 10,000 feet and take brief naps while spiraling down. This allows them to stay in flight for months at a time. Much like some children we know, these birds need hardly any sleep to keep going strong.
Bar-headed geese can fly over the Himalayas
Forget flying over rainbows, bar-headed geese can fly over mountains in the world’s tallest mountain range. This species regularly migrates at heights of 16,000 – 23,000 feet, with one bird even recorded flying nearly 24,000 feet above sea level. At that height, the air has one-third the amount of oxygen it does at sea level. That amount of oxygen makes physical exertion almost impossible for humans. Temperatures are also well below freezing, but that doesn’t stop these birds from flying high.
The fastest animal on earth is a bird
Move over, cheetahs. The fastest animal in the kingdom is actually the peregrine falcon, with a record setting top speed clocked at 242 mph. Peregrine falcons reach these speeds while diving to catch their prey. This makes them the fastest bird, and faster than any land animal as well. But these birds still know how to come back from behind. Peregrine falcons were almost wiped out by the pesticide DDT in the mid-twentieth century but have since made a strong comeback.
No one knows how many bird species there are in the world
Scientists are still debating how many different species of birds exist in the world. While most scientists agree there are around 10,000, some say that there may be closer to 18,000 different types of birds. But what is certain is that there are way more species of birds than mammals, which clock in at over 5,000 different species. While this may seem like more birds than anyone can imagine, there are some avid birders who have recorded seeing over 9,000 species of birds in their lifetime.
Between their ancestral origins as dinosaurs to their flying feats, birds are fascinating animals that can inspire children to get outside and learn more about nature.