Welcome to another edition of “Ask A Zookeeper”
– Autocomplete Questions. We’re going to go to the internet and see what questions people
have about birds. I previewed these ones, because our prefix is “How do birds…” and
I wanted to make sure that there was lots of good questions, and there are. There’s
enough for two parts, so we’re going to make the next two videos during this break into
that. One thing I noticed though, is that people
are very… overly interested in bird reproduction and the mechanics of it. Maybe we’ll cover
that in a future video but for this one, any time you see one of those red lines, that
is somebody asking a question about bird reproduction. I’m going to censor those so we can keep this
family friendly. So let’s start! We’re going to have the prefix
“How do birds…” and then we’re going to add letters afterwards to see what people
are interested in asking. “How do birds fly?”
They flap their wings? They do have some interesting adaptations though. They have hollow bones,
they have feathers, obviously, that have a high surface area but don’t weigh very much
so they can push lots of air. Then they also have hollow air pockets inside of their bodies
that reduce their weight even further. So they are highly adapted to flying.
That’s why humans can’t just strap feathers onto their arms and start flapping.
One other adaptation is that birds have highly developed muscles. Their pecs are enormous!
So they are really, really strong and that’s how they’re able to fly.
“How do birds sleep?” I made a video about this so you can watch
that to get more details, but there’s two things that are kind of interesting. One is
that they have locking mechanisms in their feet, so if they’re standing on a branch and
they go unconscious and falls asleep, their feet will lock closed so they don’t fall off
the branch even though they’re not paying attention or they don’t have voluntary control
over their muscles. So their feet are clamped on and will not let go no matter what until
they actively release them. The other thing that’s really interesting
is their brains. Birds are able to sleep both halves of their brains at the same time, just
like us, but if they’re in an unfamiliar environment or if they’re migrating, as they’re flying
up in the air or as they’re sitting on a branch in an unfamiliar area, they can close one
eye and they can sleep the opposite half of their brain. So by changing sleeping duties
between the two halves of their brain they’re able to sleep while still keeping an eye out
for predators and being safe. “How do birds see?”
Very well! They use their eyes. “How do birds drink?”
This is actually an interesting question because birds don’t have lips so they can’t seal their
mouths around a straw or drink water the way we can. Because they have a beak, their seal
is really bad. So almost every type of bird, if you imagine this is their beak, they have
to dip down into the water. They get a beak full of water, and tilt their head back and
the water flows down their throat. That’s how they swallow. That’s one of the unique
things about pigeons. If you ever see a pigeon drinking it will stick its beak into water
and it will just keep going. It has two different points in its beak where it can generate suction.
So it can seal with its tongue, and it can seal with its esophagus. It uses that to pump
water into its mouth. But it’s still not drinking the same way that we do. Meh. A surprisingly
interesting question! “How do birds age?”
Pretty well, actually. Birds are not at the top of the food chain for the most part. They
are hunted by other birds like eagles that are at the top of the food chain. Or they’re
hunted by snakes and other kinds of animals. So a bird wants to look like a normal, healthy
bird for its entire life. Parrots and songbirds will reach their adult
sizes as quickly as possible and try to look like an adult because predators will preferentially
hunt for young, old, sick, or injured birds. So they try to hide all those things very,
very well. “How do birds breathe?”
This is a really hard question to answer. I’m going to have to do a separate video on
this. So I’ll put a link when I actually do make that video. The reason is that I BARELY
understand it myself. It is a very complicated system. So there’s eight air pockets inside
of the bird’s body and they have lungs that are pass-through lungs. So the air pockets
are piped in such a way that on every inhale and exhale air flows through their lungs in
the same direction. “How do birds breathe inside of eggs?”
That’s a good question, because if you’re looking at an egg you’d be like, “Hey, it’s
sealed inside there. How does it breathe?” But there’s tiny little holes for it to breathe.
That’s how it does. “How do birds communicate?” or “How do birds
chirp?” The way that we talk is we have a set of vocal
folds that’s in our larynx. Birds actually have two sets of vocal folds that are in similar
structures called syrinx. S Y R I N X. So they can produce two different sounds at the
same time. Birds also have very fine control over the muscles in their syrinx, so they
can make incredibly complicated sounds. “How do birds chew?”
They don’t! They don’t have teeth. “How do birds decide who leads the V?”
I have no idea, and that’s a fun question because you imagine the birds voting on who’s
the best flyer, the best leader. They probably all just take turns. I like the concept though.
It’s a good question. “How do birds die a natural death?”
Naturally. So that’s part one of the two part “Ask A
Zookeeper” -Autocomplete. If you actually do have a question about birds, leave it in
the comments below. I’ll be happy to answer it for next time.
If you are watching this video close to when it comes out, we’re about halfway through
our 8-week break at this point. I’m still not back, but I wanted to put up a video so
you could see that I’m still here and I still care.
There will be one more of these, and then we’ll get back to normal episodes. I have
a few great ideas that I’m excited to do once we are done with the break.
In the meantime, take care, and thanks for taking the time to learn what makes life awesome!