Weird & Wonderful

Boss birds

Birds are special as it is — they boast of a dinosaur lineage, after all! Some are even cooler than others, in terms of their awesome style statements, antics and plain strangeness. Ready to learn about birds you’ve probably not heard of before?

Illustration of a tuffted puffin with fish in its beak feeding its young
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Fashionable hairstyle

Illustration of hoatzin bird
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Quite different from regular puffins, the tufted puffin possesses beautiful golden tufts of hair, at least during the mating season. This is not the only thing that makes this bird stand out, though. It can hold up to 20 fish in its mouth at a time and bring them back to feed its chicks. That’s one extra happy meal!

Stay away, y’all!

With its Mohawk-style, blue face, a fascinating plumage, and a striking resemblance to flying dinosaurs, the hoatzin has every reason to feel proud of itself. But there’s something else very unique about this bird that has earned it the name “skunk bird”. It turns out that the bird is much like a cow, allowing leaves to ferment inside its crop, which gives the bird a distinct “stinky” smell. It keeps predators away, so that’s a major win, too!

Illustration of frigatebird with its young
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Spill out your lunch…

A magnificent frigatebird’s most prominent feature is the intimidating pouch in its neck. While its appearance is definitely magnificent, the same cannot be said about its behaviour. When a magnificent frigatebird feels hungry, it chases after other birds and forces the unfortunate victims through intimidation to regurgitate their last meal! The good parents teach their chicks the skill at a tender age, and the little birds practise chasing each other with sticks in their mouth. When a chick drops a stick, another swoops down to grab it!

Acoustic experts

While dances, songs, and attractive displays are common among birds during mating, a kakapo will take that extra step. During the season, male kakapos gather in a special arena. They dig bowl shapes in the ground and sit in or near them, making loud boom sounds and high-pitched metallic sounds that are enhanced by the curved shape of the bowls. This can go on for nearly eight hours each night for two or more months!

Fooled you!

Illustration of a burrowing owl scaring away a raccoon
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

Killdeer, despite its name, thankfully has nothing to do with killing deer! Killdeers are instead best known for tricking predators. When an adult killdeer sees a fox or another predator approaching its nest, it moves away from the nest dragging its wing, pretending to be hurt. The predator, more interested in a fully-grown bird meal, follows along. After gaining enough distance away from the nest, it flies away back to its nest!

Hisss… I’m an owl!

Owls live in trees. Not burrowing owls, though. They’re the rebels that chose living in burrows. You probably guessed that the owl’s feet or beak aren’t designed for making its own burrow. So what it does is borrow premade burrows of other small animals — whether they want to give it up or not! And how does it keep away others curious about its new home? It hisses like a rattlesnake, scaring away even the bravest at heart. Now, that’s talent!

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Rama Ramesh is a creative writer who has written stories and features for children’s magazines and has co-authored a series of nanotechnology books for kids.

Rama Ramesh

Rama Ramesh is a creative writer who has written stories and features for children’s magazines and has co-authored a series of nanotechnology books for kids.