Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: Answering Google Questions About Birds

The auto-fill feature of Google's search bar provides an incredible wealth of national sociological information.  What are people really wondering when we aren't worried about what we're asking? What are the answers we're searching for?  

Turns out it's mostly pictures of actresses' feet.  But sometimes it's answers about birds!  I began a number of bird-related queries and let the auto-fill tell me what the inquiring minds of this nation were pondering, and I'm here now to provide answers to what, clearly, and, sadly, are our most pressing bird-related questions.

  • Do Birds Pee?
Nope! Unlike mammals, birds don't have a urethra.  They turn everything into uric acid and let it all go from the anus.
  • Do Birds Have Sex?
You bet your dirty mind they do! Here's a gross photo gallery with proof!
  •  Do Birds Sleep?
Yes they do!  I've covered this topic in depth on another website.
  •  Do Birds Fart?
Wow great question!  I have no idea, so I had to go to Popular Science for an answer (and thank god they've got their best men and women on it).  The answer is that they could but they don't.  They have the anatomical structures for it, but lack the gas-forming bacteria in their guts that couch potatoes like you and I do. 

  • Why Do Birds Sing?
Cool.  Good question.  To attract mates and to defend their territory.
  • Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?
Just like me, they long to be close to you.  XOXO
  •  Why Do Birds Chirp?
A nice companion to the singing question.  Birds make all kinds of noises that aren't songs, including chirps, cheeps, chips, squeaks, chiks and all variations.  These noises are basically done to communicate with mates and youngsters so birds can keep track of each others' whereabouts.
  • Why Do Birds Migrate?
For the most part, birds in the northern hemisphere migrate north in the springtime to take advantage of a ton of insects, plants and flowers, other food, nesting locations and lovely weather.  In the fall, when all of those food sources are gone and the weather is cold, they head back south to where it's nice.  That's about the long and the short of it.

  • Are Birds Mammals?
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh no.
  •  Are Birds Reptiles?
Um yes and no?  It appears to be complicated.  Honestly I don't care what you think and you should continue to do further research because this is like a birding humor blog and not something to get worked up about, but I found this introductory paragraph from the reptile entry on Wikipedia to be helpful:

Reptiles, the class Reptilia, is an evolutionary grade of animals, comprising today's turtlescrocodilianssnakeslizards and tuatara, as well their extinct relatives. A monophyletic definition of the clade including the above groups would also include dinosaurs and birds, since the common ancestor of all reptiles is also the common ancestor of birds and dinosaurs, as discussed below. However in common parlance birds are not considered to be reptiles, although like reptiles they have scutes (scales) on their feet and legs, and are oviparous (lay eggs). Dinosaurs were traditionally classed as reptiles, although there is now substantial evidence that they did not, or did not all, manifest the typical characteristics of "common-parlance" reptiles, such as a sprawling posture, ectothermy ("cold-bloodedness"), and scales, rather than fur or feathers. In the common definition, a reptile is any amniote (a tetrapod whose egg has an additional membrane, originally to allow them to lay eggs on land) that is neither a mammal nor a bird.
  • Are Birds Dinosaurs?
Yes!  They now understood to be part of the clade Dinosauria that includes both all those extinct dinosaurs that haunt our nightmares and what have become modern day birds.  It's all quite complicated and I get yelled at on Twitter because I'm not a scientist, but here are some other sources for additional research!
  • Are Birds Cold Blooded?
Nope!  Birds and mammals are warm-blooded, meaning they can make their own heat.  Cold-blooded animals like reptiles need to get warmth from, typically, the sun, and that's why they come out and sit in the open air, letting the sun heat them up.

  • Why Don't Birds Fly At Night?
They do, when migrating!  Millions of birds use the safety and starlight of the night sky to work their way north and south in the spring and fall.  Outside of migration, some birds fly at night - like owls and nightjars - but most birds have a harder time finding food at night because it's dark, but most of them are sleeping.
  • Why Don't Birds Have Teeth?
The long and the short of it is that birds don't have teeth because birds don't chew in the same way mammals do.  Some birds have teeth-like things in their beaks that help them hang onto food or tear it apart, but they aren't the same kind of teeth we have.   They lost them largely to save weight, the same reason birds have honeycomb bones and hollow feathers and other things.  In order to turn their food into liquid, to "chew," birds use their gizzards and other internal organs.
  • Why Don't Birds Sing At Night?
I mean, owls do, right?  So there's that.  So, birds that are awake at night sing at night, but most other birds don't sing at night because they're not awake at night.  Easy peasy.
  •  Why Don't Birds Stay South
Ha this is a pretty funny question.  I mean, some do!  It's not like the southern forests empty out in the springtime, there are a lot of birds still there.  But after the cold winter departs, a ton of food emerges in the north, mostly delicious, gross bugs.  Birds cruise north to eat the bugs and to feed them to their new babies.  There's plenty of space and nice weather and sweet sweet gross bugs.

  • Why Can't Birds Eat Chocolate?
This is apparently an issue for pet birds more than wild birds, but No!  Birds can't eat chocolate!  Holy cow the Easter eggs did we pick up all the Easter eggs?!?
  • Why Can't Birds See Glass?
Um because glass is invisible.  That's the whole point of glass, you know?  Lots of birds accidentally fly into windows and die every year, like millions.  It's awful.  Glass buildings, especially when lit up from the inside, are incredibly dangerous.  You know who else can't see glass?  Stupid normal humans.
  • Why Can't Birds Eat Avocado?
Woah!  Apparently not!  I gotta stop filling my feeder with guacamole!  Some plants develop defenses to stop them from being eaten by certain animals.  Thorns, for example, or other toxins.  I'm not totally sure why, but apparently avocados have developed toxins so that various parts of their plant aren't eaten by animals.
  • Why Can't Birds Eat Rice?
Good news, everyone!  Rice is fine for birds!  Thank god.  Rice back in the feeders, everyone!


Happy to help everyone!  Any more questions?


Gina said...

Ummm...birds ARE dinosaurs. They are coelurosaurs.

Laurence Butler said...

Great concept! Thanks for dropping the knowledge.

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