Facts about birds

Blue tit sitting on a twig
There's much more to our feathered friends than meets the eye! (Photo: Northeastwildlife.co.uk

Winter’s approaching so don’t forget to keep your bird feeders topped up to make sure our feathered friends don’t go hungry. It will give you more opportunity to observe these amazing creatures at close quarters too. But there’s much more to your greedy garden visitors than meets the eye! Check out our surprising bird facts.

What do birds eat?

Male blackbird with beak full of worms
Some birds, like this blackbird, love munching on worms (Photo: Pete Holmes/WTML)

It depends on the bird. Some species eat insects, or other minibeasts such as worms and caterpillars, while others prefer to snack on plant foods, such as fruits, berries and seeds. Birds of prey such as hawks and buzzards eat smaller birds and small mammals, and others such as kingfishers and sea birds like to tuck into fish.

Learn more about types of bird and how to feed them, and make our brilliant bird feeder.

Do birds wee?

Bird poo
The white bit is the bird's wee! (Photo: iStock.com/pick-uppath)

Yes, but they wee and poo at the same time, and it all comes out of the same hole! That explains why bird poo is a bit runny. Take a close look at some poo and you’ll notice it’s usually a mix of dark brown and white – the white bit is their pee.

Did you know it’s supposed to be lucky if a bird poos on you? (Although you might not see it that way at the time!)

Do birds have ears?

Yes, and they have very good hearing. But you won’t see a bird’s ears as the openings are hidden under its feathers.

Do birds have teeth?

No. It sounds weird, but they chew their food with their stomachs! Birds usually swallow their food whole and it goes into a special part of the stomach called the gizzard, which is very muscular and grinds up the food – they’ve usually swallowed a few little stones too, which helps.

Do birds sleep?

Wood pigeon
Birds fluff up their feathers when they're asleep (Photo: Amy Lewis/WTML)

Lot of birds sleep at night just like us. But some birds, such as owls, hunt at night and sleep in the day. You won’t see a bird sleeping as they find a hiding place, such as a hedge or leafy tree, a hole in a wall or tree trunk, or in a big flock with other birds, so they’re protected from predators.

When birds sleep, their feet lock around a branch so they can’t fall out of the tree. They also fluff up their feathers to keep warm and often tuck their head under their wing too.

Do birds have tongues?

Great spotted woodpecker with his tongue sticking out
Woodpeckers have long sticky tongues (Photo: iStock.com/Andyworks)

Yes, but they’re very different to ours. We use our tongues to taste food and to help us speak. But birds only have a few taste buds, and they’re usually in other parts of their beak or mouth, not on their tongue. Birds don’t use their tongues when they sing either (although parrots probably use theirs a bit when they talk).

Bird tongues help push food down their throats, and sometimes they help them get hold of food too. Woodpeckers can poke their tongues out a really long way so they can lick insects out of holes in trees. Birds that feed on plant nectar have little brushes on the end of their tongues to help them sweep it all up. Fish-eating birds often have little hooks on their tongues so the slithery fish doesn’t get away!

Do birds fart?

Hmm… scientists haven’t spent a lot of time researching this one! Farts are eruptions of gas that’s produced when we digest food. Compared with us, birds have a very short digestive system so there’s not much time for gas to build up. This probably means that they never let rip a really big trumpet but probably do a sneaky little quiet one now and again!

What’s your favourite bird fact? Do you know something weird or surprising about them? Share it using #NatureDetectives.

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