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Today I will go over a small but important problem: Are birds animals? For biologists, this has long been solved, but those who do not have studies in the field may still be confused about this. Many times, I have met people who are skeptical about this detail of biology, and that is why I have decided to explain this extensively and show the connection of birds with the animal world.
In biology, there is a branch, called taxonomy, which deals with the establishment of rules for the classification and systematization of all organisms on earth. No living creature has escaped the curiosity and pedantry of specialists in this field, so nowadays we have at our disposal a thorough division of the living world. First, there are 6 kingdoms: Bacteria, Protozoa, Chromista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia. The kingdoms were established on the basis of the common characteristics of living organisms.
The Kingdom of Animalia is the most evolved of all, and it brings together all the multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, so, those that cannot produce organic substances for their own nourishment, unlike plants, algae, and green bacteria that do so by photosynthesis.
Birds are only a class of the vast animal Kingdom and have several traits common to other organisms in other classes like the presence of the spine, the presence of a cranial box; the presence of specialized sense organs, and well-defined organ systems.
If you think that the only ability of birds is to fly, think again. With over 10.000 species in the world, there are birds that can run, jump, swim and even sink. The distinctive feature of birds that distinguishes them from the rest of the animals is that they possess feathers, wings, and beaks.
Feathers, the defining characteristic of birds, are crucial to their flying skills. Feathers also provide warmth and protection against heat and cold. You may not know this, but in many species, feathers are a prominent feature for males to attract their partners.
Research says that once or twice a year, birds throw out old feathers and grow new ones. There are birds that, despite having wings and feathers, cannot fly. Some of the non-flying birds include ostrich, emu, rhea, kiwi, and cassowary.
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Each bird has its wings in a different shape, which gives them advantages that differentiate them from other notable birds. For example, falcons have wings with sharp tips that make them one of the fastest birds ever.
Songbirds usually have uniform, elliptical wings that allow them to make rapid movements in the limited spaces of trees. On the other hand, penguins, flipper birds, possess paw-shaped wings that help them propel their bodies through the water.
Unlike mammals, birds never chew their food. They simply grind the food into smaller pieces and swallow it quickly. The general shape of a bird’s beak defines the diet of the bird and its way of eating the food.
For example, carnivores, such as hawks and owls, usually have an elongated and pointed beak that is used to tear off food. Ducks have a flat but wide beak that helps them choose their food directly from the water.
Like other types of animals, birds lay eggs. However, some of them lay bright and vibrant eggs, while others lay simple eggs or eggs that are covered with tiny spots. While mammals have a thick and strong skeleton, most birds have a light skeleton that keeps them light enough to fly easily.
A list of birds:
Birds are similar in structure to reptiles and represent a progressive branch that has been able to adapt to flight.
Birds are characterized by a constant body temperature, characteristic of the upper vertebrates, therefore, birds are warm-blooded animals. This is the first answer to the question of whether the bird is an animal or not.
Is a Bird an Animal?
However, they have specific characteristics that give them a special place in the large animal family:
- the aerodynamic shape of the body;
- conversion of forelimbs into wings;
- jaws converted into beak;
- the presence of feathers, flakes, and fluff;
- the presence of a particularly high metabolic rate;
- a very light but also strong skeleton;
- mouth cavity without teeth;
- lack of bladder;
- reproduction by laying hard shell eggs containing embryos.
The specific characteristics that differentiate them are not a reason to consider birds as something different from animals. For most people, an animal is the same as a mammal, which is nothing more than a tetrapod organism with mammary glands that gives birth to live offspring. Mammals represent only a small class in the vast Kingdom of Animalia, and therefore not all animals are mammals! It is important to know this detail so as not to be confused.
Even insects are animals because they are part of the phylum Arthropoda of the Kingdom of Animalia. They’re invertebrates, they have different body segments than mammals, but they’re still animals.
Mammals are not the only animals. The presence of fur, mammary glands, tetrapod gait, and the birth of offspring are not universal characteristics for all animals, and it is incorrect to expect these peculiarities when defining the word “animal”.