Bird Buddy Blog

The 10 Most Googled Things About Birds

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Back in 2008, Google introduced its Autocomplete function, which felt a bit like black magic at the time: how on earth could it have known that was my query? The tool was designed to predict what you were searching for, but there are times when few of us can resist clicking on the other suggestions, just to find out what the answer could possibly be. Today we take a look at ten Google questions about birds.

1. Are birds real?

Started in 2017 by Peter McIndoe, Birds Aren’t Real is an organisation in the US that essentially claims that birds, our beautiful amazing feathered friends, are in fact all gone. Between 1959 and 1971, the CIA wiped out all of the birds and replaced them with drones whose sole purpose is to spy on us whilst maintaining the illusion that birds still exist.

The movement has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and local chapters can regularly be seen attending protests wearing branded t-shirts, waving placards and chanting the three-word name over and over again. Erroneously dismissed by many as conspiracy theorists of the highest bizarre order, McIndoe finally came clean in a December 2021 interview with the New York Times about the real reasons behind the unreal claim. Growing up in a world flooded with conspiracy, misinformation, and media-controlled politics, he created the slogan as a surreal counterpoint. His Generation Z followers got the joke and joined in with gusto. It is their attempt to make sense of the world, merely wishing to up-end the rabbit hole madness of Q-Anon, and use it as a coping mechanism. As one activist member told the NYT, “In a uniquely bleak time to come of age, it doesn’t hurt to have something to laugh about together.”

2. Are birds mammals?

Even though birds are indeed warm-blooded, breathe air with lungs and possess vertebrae, birds are not mammals, but avians. Despite other similarities to mammals, birds have too many dissimilarities that require them to be placed into a different category. A huge difference to 99% of all mammals is, of course, the egg thing (there is a group of mammals that lay eggs called monotremes, which includes the platypus and the echidna, but their shells are very soft, more like leather). Birds also have beaks, no teeth, and feathers instead of fur or hair.

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3. Do birds close their eyes?

Yes – well, sometimes. Not necessarily both of them at the same time. Birds are pretty much forever on the lookout for danger or food. They have evolved a unique ability to shut down half of their brain by closing one eye and giving that some rest whilst the other sits on a sort of standby mode, ready to take flight if needed. Migratory birds will sleep for seconds at a time during their long-haul flights. Birds at night can catch their z’s if they roost together somewhere safely for a short while, and when ducks huddle at the shoreline, those on the periphery keep that outer eye open and snooze the other side, whilst those lucky ones in the middle drift off with both eyes closed.

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4. Why do birds suddenly appear?

Not some cryptic answer to an avian magic trick, this is the first line of a love song by the much-missed Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters, whose 1970s classic ballad They Long To Be (Close to You) has never left Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Hits. Pour the Cinzano, dim the lava lamp, and press play.

5. Are birds of paradise poisonous to dogs?

We weren’t sure what the answer to this one would be, we confess. Why just birds of paradise? Is it the long tail feathers? How many dogs are roaming the jungles of Papua New Guinea munching on magnificent riflebirds, meeting their doom? Turns out this question is about the bird of paradise plant, which is indeed toxic to dogs. Now you know.

Michael Pfister / Unsplash

6. Do birds pee?

Birds are highly efficient animals and have managed to develop their “waste disposal systems” into one finely-tuned process. Food and water go in the usual way, through the mouth via the beak, but once inside, nutrients and as much moisture as possible are extracted leaving nitrogenous remnants. This exits their body via the cloacal vent as a thin white and grey chalky paste known as uric acid. Some birds use small stones and gravel in their stomachs to help mash up food, and fragments of these can get passed out too, giving the paste a gritty texture. Nice.

7. Are birds colour-blind?

Whilst there are some birds that do have poor eyesight and trouble seeing colours, (owls, for instance), the majority of birds have exceptional sight. In fact, they can see much more than us as their eyes can pick up the ultraviolet range. In comparison, we are the colour-blind ones.

8. Do birds have teeth?

There is a famous English saying that something is as rare as a hen’s teeth. As hens don’t have teeth, this means that whatever is being commented on is very, very unlikely. Birds do not have teeth. They either ingest their food whole or rip it apart like raptors do, and then their powerful stomach muscles do all the rest of the work (sometimes with a bit of help: see 6 above). Many birds of prey have what is referred to as a tomial tooth – a bony protrusion on their upper beak that they use to grip and tear their prey with.

 

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9. How do birds mate?

After some exhausting courtship displays! Every year, birds feel the pull of the breeding season, with some flying thousands of miles to find the right partner. Most bird species have to undergo some kind of mating ritual before the physical act, with some being relatively meek such as the male finding a really good twig and presenting it to the female, to elaborate aerobatic flights of near-death like the bald eagle’s spiral dive. The effort can pay off, though, and then the fun begins – for about one second. The males will mount the female’s back and, as they don’t have penises, he will press his cloacal vent against hers; sperm that has been stored there then passes from his body into her cloacal vent and on into her ova to fertilise the eggs.

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10. Do birds fart?

This one is perhaps a little immature, but it’s not our fault it comes up on the list! It is kind of important, though, from a biological point of view – some animals, including birds, lack the gut bacteria that produces flatulence: ergo, birds can’t fart. Parrots like to make playful “raspberry” noises, and there was once a claim that the Bassian Thrush expels jets of air out of its rectum as a hunting technique, to flush insects from beneath leaf litter. However, only one man claims to have seen it happen, and it has never been recorded on film or tape, although some put this down to the fact that these birds are very shy and will run away; perhaps out of embarrassment.