Bird adoption, sanctuary, rescue, and care education services for parrots and other captive exotic 'pet' birds. Based in Minneapolis - St. Paul (Twin Cities) area of Minnesota and serving Midwest.

 

 

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E-mail: birds@maars.org  

  Captive Bird Rescue, Adoption, Sanctuary & Care Education MAARSianChronicles 

 

Home > News & Events > MAARSianChronicles > Issue 9: October 2004 > Did You Know?: Birds & Flight – How Do They Do It?

Echo - Cockatiel (Photo © 1995 Krista Menzel)Did You Know?

Birds & Flight – How Do They Do It?

Birds' bodies are amazing machines, each system adapted to accommodate the unique physical and psychological demands of flight. While there are a few flightless bird species, the vast majority of birds do fly. In the wild, parrots fly up to twenty miles each day in search of food, new roosts, nesting materials, and seemingly sometimes for the sheer thrill of it. They live in the trees and travel the skies, touching down here and there for brief moments only to feed, drink, or bathe.

So how do they do it? How have their bodies evolved to support and power the rigors of flight?

 

  

 

Eat like a bird? Flight burns a lot of fuel! A 150-pound human would have to consume approximately 23,000–31,000 Calories per day if he or she had the same metabolic rate as the average 35g budgie! But birds consume small meals throughout the day and their fluid intake is minimal compared to mammals.

 

  

 

Many bird species' kidneys produce dry, lightweight urates and relatively little heavy, liquid urine, and they don't store wastes very long. You may notice that a bird often "lightens the load" just before taking off.

 

  

 

Birds' respiratory systems extend throughout their bodies — skin, skull, limbs, beak, bones, and abdomen — in a series of interconnected air sacs in order to efficiently move oxygen into the blood to power flights requiring enormous physical endurance.

 

  

 

Birds can breathe in and out at the same time in a circular fashion, efficiently moving oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the bloodstream. Birds replace nearly all the air in their lungs with each breath.

 

  

 

To lighten their body weight, birds only have one developed ovary or testis, and their reproductive organs atrophy during non-breeding season.

 

  

 

Birds have hollow, lightweight, yet strong bones that are often fused to support strong flight muscles without adding extra weight.

 

  

 

Wing feathers or "flight feathers" form a strong but lightweight extension of the wing that moves the air to propel the bird upward and forward when a bird flaps his or her wings.

 

  

 

Birds' jaws are reduced to bills with no teeth — another weight reducer.

 

 

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