How long can birds fly before they get tired? Why does my pet bird put his food in his water? Azula answers all of your burning questions.
Is it true a bird’s stomach bursts if the bird eats rice?
If birds’ stomachs burst when we ate rice, there would be a lot of exploding pigeons any time someone threw rice at a wedding or dropped their Chinese food. (That would be a weird thing to see, wouldn’t it?) Luckily, Sarabel, the story that birds can’t eat rice is a myth—my avian friends and I can digest both raw and cooked rice. In fact, lots of birds eat it right out of rice paddies, and brown rice can be a healthy part of a parrot’s diet. So the next time your family is having some delicious brown rice with dinner, feel free to invite me over!
Why do birds sing so early in the morning?
Ever hear the saying, “The early bird gets the worm?” Well, it’s true! We birds wake up so early in order to eat—the morning is the best time to find lots of tasty worms and insects! And everyone knows, when birds are awake, we like to sing—twitterly-tweet-chirp-chirp! I’ll let you in on another little secret, birds sing for the same reason that humans talk: to communicate. We use song to let other birds know where we are, when danger is coming and to try and attract new friends!
How many times a day do wild ducks poop?
Believe it or not, Larry, the average duck poops approximately once every 15 minutes—that’s almost 100 times a day! And here’s something else you might find surprising—it’s not just poop that comes out!
Unlike mammals, birds don't pee and poop from separate holes. We use our kidneys to filter wastes from the blood, just like you humans, but instead of it coming out as plain old pee, a bird’s droppings contain 3 different substances. There’s the poop (or feces, if you want to get technical), which is dark in color. Then there are the urates, which are off-white or cream-colored. And the third part of a bird’s droppings is urine (otherwise known as pee), which is watery waste from the kidneys.
And just when you thought you knew all there is to know about bird poop, I have one more exciting fact for you—the hole that a bird's droppings come out of is called the cloaca.
How can I tell if a parakeet is a girl or a boy?
Good question, Stephanie—and one that lots of parakeet parents wanna know the answer to. Many people can’t tell if their bird is male or female until the day that she lays an egg!
If you really want to find out if your bird is a male or a female, one thing you can do is take your parakeet to an avian veterinarian (a vet who specializes in taking care of birds) for a special blood test. If there’s a Y chromosome in the blood, you know your bird is a male. If there’s an X chromosome, you know your bird is a female.
I do know of an easier way—but it only works if your parakeet is an adult. Take a look at the bump—called a cere—just above your bird’s nose. If the bird is a male, the cere is usually bright blue. If the bird is a female, the cere is pinkish-brown. It’s hard to tell when birds are young because all baby parakeets have blue ceres.
Do birds poop while they are sleeping?
I’ll let you in on a little secret, Pryl—the answer is yes, we birds DO indeed poop while we are sleeping! Talented, huh?
Actually, the way we sleep is a lot different from the way you humans sleep. It’s kind of like we are always a little bit awake. That’s because in the wild, we need to stay on guard to protect ourselves from predators. Also, we get about 10 to 12 hours of shut-eye every night—and with our superfast metabolisms, there’s no way we could “hold it in” that long!
How long can birds fly before they get tired?
What kind of “featherbrained” question is this?!
Just kidding, of course! Actually, it's a great question, and the answer depends on the species, or type, of bird. The members of my avian family known as swifts, for example, are really "flighty." Can you believe that they almost NEVER land? Me, I like to hang out in the trees with the rest of my flock, but swifts eat, drink, and even sleep in mid-air! When snooze time comes around, they settle into a slow glide in a pocket of warm air high in the sky. Talk about going on autopilot.
This question is adapted from articles originally created by Rianna Polin and Dr. Bill Samuels for "Pet Talk," a regular column in the Chapin School's Between the Lines newspaper.
Why do birds stand on one leg?
It would be pretty tiring for you humans to balance on one leg for a long period of time, Coralie, but it's no sweat for us birds. Because of the way our bodies are built, standing on one leg is easy—and it sure is comfortable, too! Some scientists say that it's also a good way to conserve heat, because it takes less energy to stand on one leg than it does to stand on two.
Why do ducks sleep on one leg?
While it would be pretty uncomfortable for you humans to try balancing on one leg while sleeping, Ruby, it's no sweat for us birds. In fact, it’s quite comfortable for ducks! Keeping their leg tucked up in their feathers is a great way for them to keep warm while sleeping. If you look closely, you’ll also notice they like to nestle their bills under their feathers, too—it’s warm and cozy in there!
What kind of bird are you, Azula, and what do you eat?
—Ankita, Nicole and Uchenna
A question about little old moi? This blue and gold macaw is ticked pink! Scientists call me Ara ararauna (say that three times fast!), but you can call me Azula. My name comes from the Spanish word azul, which means "blue." My flock and I make our "home, humid, home" in the Amazon rain forest. There's always something new in bloom around here, and that means more food for me. I mainly eat fruits, seeds, nuts and berries, but every now and then I love a good sip of nectar with some tender leaves and a yummy flower or two. I'd invite you over for breakfast, but you may have a hard time peeling the shells off the nuts and fruit—I use my beak, you see!
Does a hen lay eggs when she’s molting?
That’s an egg-celent question, Kathy! About once a year, chickens molt as a way to shed old feathers and grow new ones. During this time, their reproductive system takes a rest and they stop laying eggs.
Believe it or not, molting is a very difficult and stressful time for birds. It’s important that they are kept warm and fed a balanced diet. It takes about seven weeks for the molting cycle to complete.
Why does my cockatiel wag his tail?
Many people don’t know this, Mariya, but just like dogs, some pet birds wag their tails when they’re happy.
Who would know better than a parrot like myself?! Trust me—when we see someone we really like or are playing with a favorite toy, we can’t help but shake our rumps!
What are some fun ways to play with your pet bird?
Why, I thought you'd never ask! We birds are very social creatures, Annie, and most of us need a lot of playtime every day. There's a reason why PARrot and PARty start with the same three letters! I have lots of ideas for fun things to do with all species of pet birds.
Some pet birds just like to hang out with their favorite humans, sitting on a shoulder or having you sing or read to them. Others, depending on the breed, will play peek-a-boo, catch and even fetch.
As you and your bird get to know each other, you may even invent some of your own special games!
Your bird will also need fun toys to play with when you are not there. Make sure that the toys you buy are safe for your bird and are the right size for her breed. It's also a good idea to rotate the toys weekly, so your pet doesn't get bored. I myself am big into karaoke, though I do need my own private room-we birds can really project, you know! (Yes, everybody, that last sentence was a joke!)
P.S. Some birds aren't easily hand-tamed, and will be quite content to play in their cages. If your bird likes to be handled, be really careful when getting her used to it. Make sure a responsible adult is present and follow our surefire training tips.
Can you give me some facts about great horned owls?
Owl be happy to take your order, Samantha. Three fascinating facts coming right up:
1. News flash! The great horned owl doesn’t have horns! Those soft, feathery tufts are just shaped like horns. Some people think they even look like a cat’s ears.
2. As a night hunter, it’s important for the great horned owl to be very quiet. How does he do it? His feathers are loose around his body, so he’s almost silent when he flies.
3. Warning—this next fact is really disgusting. A great horned owl may swallow his prey whole, and then later throw up pellets containing the bones and fur he couldn’t digest. Blechh!
Why does my pet bird put his food in his water?
Ever dunk your cookies in milk, Ashley? That’s kinda like what your pet could be doing with his food and water. We birds have a special name for the goopy mess we make… PARROT SOUP!
Scientists don’t really know why some pet birds (including macaws like moi!) put our food in our water. Sometimes we seem to be dunking our food, and sometimes it seems like we’re washing it. And sometimes we accidentally fling it in there because we can be, well, uh, total slobs when we eat.
Whatever the reason, parrot soup can be dangerous to all pet birds. Harmful bacteria will start to grow and contaminate the water, and a bird can become very sick if he drinks this contaminated water.
If you are reading this and if you have a bird, there are some things you can do to prevent your pet from making — and drinking — parrot soup:
- Clean out your bird’s water cup and refill it with fresh, clean water every day.
- Make sure your bird’s water cup and seed/treat cup aren’t too close together. Sometimes food accidentally gets into the water.
- Instead of giving your bird water in a cup, get a water bottle with a drinking tube that attaches to the side of the cage. These are used for hamsters and guinea pigs, too, so make sure you get the kind that’s especially made for birds.
How come I never see baby pigeons? They all seem to be the same size.
And the Future Scientist Award goes to…Naomi! Wow, you are very observant…even though you don’t get to observe too many baby pigeons! This is a great question that many people want to know the answer to, and I can think of two possible reasons.
1.) Pigeon parents are really good at hiding their nests. These smart birds try to build their nests in places where they can’t be easily seen.
2) Pigeon parents totally spoil their families! They usually only raise 2 or 3 babies at one time, so mom and dad pigeon are able to feed their babies a LOT of food—which makes them grow really fast. When the babies are ready to leave the nest, when they’re about a month old, they’re as big as their parents—and some may even be bigger than their parents! (So you were right, Naomi, when you wrote that all pigeons seem to be the same size.)