What makes a bird a bird?
As a group, birds share certain characteristics that make them easily identifiable for any age group, things like beaks, wings, feathers, and scaled feet with four clawed toes. Yet within this basic plan, there are amazing variations between species that highlight recognizable adaptations to different habitats or lifestyles. For an extreme example, penguins have long, sharp beaks lined with spines for catching fish, short wings that act more as flippers, and thick, waxy, waterproof feathers, all adaptations to life in the cold southern oceans. But even among more familiar birds, there are distinct differences that can be considered adaptations. A house finch’s stout beak is ideal for cracking seeds, while a robin’s slightly hooked beak is better for pulling worms from the ground. A mallard’s webbed feet help it to swim, an osprey’s sharp talons catch fish, and a ruffed grouse has bristles on its feet that enable it to walk on snow.
Explore some more activities on this site to learn about the external and internal structures of birds - and how the variations in these structures can tell us much about how a bird behaves.