The Online Library of Knowledge

LET'S EXPLORE The animal kingdom

How do birds live?

Black-winged stiltBlack-winged stiltBirds are the only animals that have feathers. They have an inner layer of short, soft feathers called down. These are covered by long, smooth feathers, which also make up their wings. Feathers keep the birds warm and dry. All birds are warm-blooded. They have a pair of wings, two legs, a toothless beak and claws. They lay hard-shelled eggs. Most birds can fly, but a few, such as the ostrich and the penguin, cannot. Most birds make sounds, or calls. Some birds produce patterns of notes that are like songs. Many birds travel long distances to warmer places to spend winter. This is called migration.

European magpie in flightEuropean magpie in flightDifferent beak shapesDifferent beak shapes


You can often tell what a bird eats from the shape of its beak (sometimes called a bill). The flamingo holds its head upside down in shallow water and uses its beak to sieve out tiny animals from the water. It uses its tongue to push the water out through tiny comb-like “hairs”, leaving the food behind.

The scarlet ibis has a long bill to stab down through the water as it wades, while the vulture tears meat with its strong, hooked beak. The macaw’s short, powerful beak cracks open hard seeds. The toucan uses its massive beak to grasp fruit.

Collared aracari, a kind of toucanCollared aracari, a kind of toucan

Peregrine falcons, when diving, are the fastest-moving creatures on Earth, reaching speeds of more than 389 km/h (242 mph).

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile