Portal:Birds

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The Birds Portal

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Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class Aves (/ˈvz/), characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5.5 cm (2.2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) ostrich. There are about ten thousand living species, more than half of which are passerine, or "perching" birds. Birds have wings whose development varies according to species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in some birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.

Birds are feathered theropod dinosaurs and constitute the only known living dinosaurs. Likewise, birds are considered reptiles in the modern cladistic sense of the term, and their closest living relatives are the crocodilians. Birds are descendants of the primitive avialans (whose members include Archaeopteryx) which first appeared about 160 million years ago (mya) in China. According to DNA evidence, modern birds (Neornithes) evolved in the Middle to Late Cretaceous, and diversified dramatically around the time of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 mya, which killed off the pterosaurs and all non-avian dinosaurs.

Many social species pass on knowledge across generations, which is considered a form of culture. Birds are social, communicating with visual signals, calls, and songs, and participating in such behaviours as cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird species are socially (but not necessarily sexually) monogamous, usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, and rarely for life. Other species have breeding systems that are polygynous (one male with many females) or, rarely, polyandrous (one female with many males). Birds produce offspring by laying eggs which are fertilised through sexual reproduction. They are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching.

Many species of birds are economically important as food for human consumption and raw material in manufacturing, with domesticated and undomesticated birds being important sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Songbirds, parrots, and other species are popular as pets. Guano (bird excrement) is harvested for use as a fertiliser. Birds figure throughout human culture. About 120 to 130 species have become extinct due to human activity since the 17th century, and hundreds more before then. Human activity threatens about 1,200 bird species with extinction, though efforts are underway to protect them. Recreational birdwatching is an important part of the ecotourism industry. (Full article...)

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The extinct dodo

Out of the approximately 11,154 known bird species, 159 (1.4%) have become extinct, 226 (2%) are critically endangered, 461 (4.1%) are endangered, 800 (7.2%) are vulnerable and 1018 (9.1%) are near threatened. There is a general consensus among scientists who study these trends that if human impact on the environment continues as it has, one-third of all bird species and an even greater proportion of bird populations will be gone by the end of this century.

Since 1500, 150 species of birds have become extinct. Historically, the majority of bird extinctions have occurred on islands, particularly those in the Pacific. These include countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. (Full article...)
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Several members of the order
Charadriiformes (/kəˈrædri.ɪfɔːrmz/, from Charadrius, the type genus of family Charadriidae) is a diverse order of small to medium-large birds. It includes about 390 species and has members in all parts of the world. Most charadriiform birds live near water and eat invertebrates or other small animals; however, some are pelagic (seabirds), others frequent deserts, and a few are found in dense forest. Members of this group can also collectively be referred to as shorebirds. (Full article...)
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Free online resources:

There is also Birds of North America, Cornell University's massive project collecting information on every breeding bird in the ABA area. It is available for US$40 a year.

For more sources, including printed sources, see WikiProject Birds.

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Left carpometacarpus from the hand of an extinct swan (Olor paloregonus = Cygnus paloregonus) from Oregon. Date: 1892–1893, Source: Popular Science Monthly Volume 42

The carpometacarpus is a bone found in the hands of birds. It results from the fusion of the carpal and metacarpal bone, and is essentially a single fused bone between the wrist and the knuckles. It is a smallish bone in most birds, generally flattened and with a large hole in the middle. In flightless birds, however, its shape may be slightly different, or it might be absent entirely.

It forms the tip of the wing skeleton in birds. To it, most of the primary remiges attach. The alula, by contrast, is formed by the thumb, which does not completely fuse with the other hand-bones. Likewise, the tipmost primaries attach to the phalanx bones. (Full article...)
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Male in summer plumage
The eastern or American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), also known as the wild canary, is a North American bird in the finch family. It is migratory, ranging from southern Canada to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from just south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter. The American goldfinch displays sexual dimorphism in its coloration; the male is a vibrant yellow in the summer and an olive color during the winter months, while the female is a dull yellow-brown shade which brightens only slightly during the summer. The male displays brightly colored plumage during the breeding season to attract a mate. The American goldfinch is granivorous and adapted for the consumption of seedheads, with a conical beak to remove the seeds and agile feet to grip the stems of seedheads while feeding. It is a social bird, and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating. Its breeding season is tied to the peak of food supply, beginning in late July, which is relatively late in the year for a finch. Human activity has generally benefited the American goldfinch.


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Taxonomy of Aves

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Sources

  1. ^ Mead, D., ed. (1848). The American Literary Emporium. New York, NY, US: C. H. Camp. p. 209.
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