What's a bird.
If you had to describe a bird to someone from another planet, I bet you'd use words like small, lightweight, feathers, wings, able to fly, and great singing voice.
For many of the birds in the world, these words would be very accurate. But did you know there are birds that are bigger than some people? Or birds that don't fly but can run very fast? There are birds that talk or sing at night instead of during the day. And there are even birds that swim almost as well as fish!
Famous for their black and white coloring and waddling walk, the penguin is a bird that doesn't fly. They are exceptional swimmers, though. They have webbed feet, waterproof wings like flippers, and a short wedge of a tail. They can swim at speeds of approximately 15 mph. Penguins spend half their time in the water, catching fish for dinner.
The cassowary is a bird found in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. This is another bird that doesn't fly. The cassowary has a bright blue and red head, a thick hom-like casque (pronounced kask) that looks like a helmet on top of its head, and strong, powerful three-toed feet. This is not a bird to challenge to a race.
Ostriches and emus are related to the cassowary. These are flightless birds as well. They rely on their legs, strength, and large bodies to combat any threats. Both birds can reach a height taller than a human adult. They can weigh up to 150 pounds and can run as fast as 45 mph. That beats most people on a bike!
Birds are known for their chirping. Many birds greet the sunrise with a song. Some birds have songs that they sing to call to Mends or even to warn of a cat in the yard. A few birds are awake at night. These nocturnal birds sing their songs after the sun goes down. Owls are the most popular nighttime singers. With an eerie scream, or a hoot or screech, they make their presence known. Other birds, such as the mockingbird or heron, can make chirps and noises at night, especially if a full moon is in the sky.
Pet birds, like parrots and macaws, can be taught to "talk." Birds will repeat sounds. These sounds come out sounding like words to our questions. But teaching a bird to talk can take years and a lot of patience. It's probably easier to get your dog, Spot, to roll over, sit, and stay.
So if you ever have to describe the birds of our world, don't forget the big, heavy, swimming, running, and screeching kind too!
Caption: Rainbow lorikeets are a type of parrot.
Caption: Humboldt penguin
Caption: great blue heron