• Pa-Hay-okee Overlook

    Everglades

    National Park Florida

Birds of the Everglades

Have you ever wished you could fly?
Just flap your arms and take off into the sky like the birds?
Well, without the assistance of an airplane or glider, that is not really possible for any of us humans. We just do not have the right equipment needed to get off the ground like a bird. So how do birds fly?

 

What do birds need to be able to fly?
Hopefully, your very first guess was wings! Birds definitely need those appendages to get off the ground, but not all birds can fly.

Wings are very useful for providing lift (this gets them off the ground). These wings catch the air just like your kite catches air when you pull it. Of course, wings alone will not get you far. Remember not all birds with wings can fly...

Can you name at least one bird that’s unable to fly?
Think about penguins, emus, and ostriches.

 

So, just having wings is not enough. There must be something else that helps a bird fly!

Can you guess what that might be
They must be light in weight! Think about it, ostriches and emus are both really heavy birds. That means it would take them a lot of effort, energy, and strength to just get off the ground for even a moment!

All flying birds must be light in weight, so these birds have hollow bones. These special bones help in reducing the weight of the birds.

 

So birds have hollow bones and wings to help them fly. Is there anything else that might be needed?

How about their wingspan (length of wings)? With longer and larger wings, birds can get a much bigger lift.

Let's try explaining wingspan with an activity.
First, you'll need a partner and a tape measure. Have your partner measure your height from the base of your feet to the very top of your head. Record the number.

Now spread your arms out and have them measure the length of them from finger tip to finger tip. That is your wingspan. Take a look at the two numbers. Are they close together?

Here's a fun fact your parents might not know. You can find out how tall someone is by measuring their wingspan! If you have a wingspan of 5 feet, then you are most likely to be 5 feet tall. The difference might be about an inch.

 
Great Blue Heron

Let's now compare your measurements with the Everglades' very own, Great Blue Heron.

The Great Blue Heron is a very tall, wading bird. If this bird were to stand up straight and extend its neck as far as possible, it would probably be about 4 feet tall.

So how big do you think its wingspan is? Is it also 4 feet, like ours would be?

Well, believe it or not, the Great Blue Heron has a much greater wingspan than its height! On average, this bird's wingspan measures about 6 feet in length. That's almost 2 feet longer than its height.

This is really useful for the heron when it wants to fly. Birds benefit from having great big wingspans and hollow bones. It makes it much easier to fly great distances.

 

While it is true that humans are unable to fly, remember birds don't have all the wonderful advantages that we have. For example, they do not have hands with flexible fingers, especially your extremely helpful opposable thumbs. We can use our hands to help us build cool things like airplanes.

Special features or traits that help you survive are called adaptations. The thumb is a very special adaptation that allows us to live better just like the bird's wings and hollow bones are its adaptations.

Now that we know some basic facts about birds, lets take a closer look at all the amazing birds you can find in the Everglades.

 
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A popular bird to see on the Anhinga Trail is the Anhinga.

Sometimes called the snake bird, this bird has webbed feet which help it swim when it chases fish in the water. While searching for food, it will often poke its slender neck and head above the water, looking a lot like a snake.

In this picture, the Anhinga has its wings spread towards the sun, which helps it warm up (thermoregulate) after a swim. A male Anhinga has a black neck (see picture) and females have a light brown neck and head.

 
Osprey

Take a look at this magnificent bird! This is the Osprey. The Osprey, like the Bald Eagle and Red Shouldered Hawk is a bird of prey. That means, it has sharp talons (clawed feet) great for snatching its most favorite food. The Osprey loves to eat fish so you'll probably spot him diving down towards the water in its hunt for food. Their talons are specifically adapted to grab fish.

 
Little Blue Heron

In this picture, you can see another one of the herons often seen here, called the Little Blue Heron.

Just like the Great Blue Heron, the Little Blue Heron likes to go wading in the water searching for food.

It uses its long neck and legs to help it in its search for those aquatic fish and insects.

 

To return to the previous page click on: Wildlife and to return to the main
Welcome page click on
Learning about the Everglades.

Did You Know?

Full Moon

National Parks are some of the few places in this country where people can experience a night sky in all its magnificence, without the interference of artificial lights. In fact, a night sky monitoring program is being implemented in the National Park System to inventory light pollution.