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Some birds are the most beautifully colored animals in all of nature.  Color is called an adaptation (a change in an animal to suit a new use or set of conditions which improves the animal's chances of survival).  Voice is another adaptation.  Songbirds, for example, sing melodious songs during courtship but also use their voices as territorial warnings.  Wing structures are adaptations that allow birds to fly.

Birds eat a variety of foods including berries, seeds, grasses, nectar, insects, fish, other birds and mammals.  Birds have adaptations that allow them to feed in different ways.  The shape of a bird's beak is an adaptation that allows it to eat different types of food.  Birds' beaks (bills) suit their feeding habits.  They may have long beaks, short beaks, thin beaks, wide beaks, hooked beaks, straight beaks, big beaks or little beaks.  Birds of prey, such as the kestrel, have hooked bills to tear the flesh of their prey; whereas wading birds have longer and more slender beaks to allow them to dig deep into the sand or mud for their food.  

Other examples of adaptations are long legs, short legs, tiny claws, big claws, round wings, pointed wings, stiff feathers and soft feathers.  All these parts combine to make MANY different types of birds.  

Using the eight birds included in the Bird Unit, discuss bird adaptations with the class.  Ask them to identify as many adaptations as they can and to tell the purpose the adaptation serves. (For example, coloration helps some birds to camouflage themselves (e.g., sparrows), while it may help other birds (such as the bright red cardinal) to attract mates.)

Ask students how the shape or size of a beak affects what a bird eats.  For example, long, thin beaks can be used to probe the sand or mud for invertebrates (animals having no backbone, like the sand flea or clam); while tiny beaks can be used to peck insects out from under bark and leaves.  Wide and long beaks can be used to catch or scoop up fish; hooked beaks are often used for tearing flesh.

After introducing the feather in the trunk ask students to describe different kinds of bird feathers they have observed.  Present the following facts:

(a)Feather shafts are made of a horn-like material called keratin.  Each shaft has slender branches called barbs.  

(b)The largest of the 4 main kinds of feathers are the long flight feathers.  There are two kinds of flight feathers, the primaries which are located on the

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