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Getting to the Heart of the Matter
Generally speaking the smaller the bird, the bigger its heart in proportion to its body size. The heart of the tinamou, a large, sluggish forest fowl of South America, is just .21% of its body weight.
A hummingbird, however, which has a ferocious metabolism and a circulatory system to match, has a heart that makes up 2.4 % of its mass - proportionally more than ten times greater than the tinamou's. The hummer's heart rate is also much faster. A blue-throated hummingbird, in active flight around its Southwestern habitat, has a pulse rate of nearly 1,200 beats per minute. A turkey';s heart barely exceeds 90. As a comparison here are a few other common species heart rates:
American crow - 342
American robin - 570
Black-capped chickadee - 500
Domestic turkey - 93
European starling - 460
(Taken from The Birder's Miscellany: A Fascinating Collection of Facts, Figures and Folklore from the World of Birds by Scott Weidensaul, Fireside Books, 1991.)
Birders watching geese fly
Where have all the Birdies Gone?
In ancient times, people had strange ideas about the seasonal appearance and disappearance of some birds.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, believed that birds didn’t go anywhere, but simply changed their identity with another species. For instance, he said that as summer approached, the European Robin become a European Redstart. This explained why the redstart appeared and the robin disappeared.
Some naturalists thought that only large birds could migrate across oceans. They believed that smaller birds hitchhiked on the backs of others. A belief that still persists with some people.
In 1703, an Englishman wrote that birds flew to the moon over a period of 60 days and then went into hibernation.
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More Bird Trivia
There are more birds per square foot outdoors in August than at any other time of the year in North America.
87% of all the individual birds in North America at any given time are blackbirds, grackles, starlings and cowbirds.
There is no blue pigment in a bluejay’s feathers. They are blue because tiny transparent particles in the feather bounce blue light at the on-looker while screening out other wavelengths of light.
Most incubating birds have a ‘brood patch’ where the feathers have been shed to allow warmth to pass directly from the bird to the eggs.
Adult cedar waxwings feed on small fruit and berries, but feed their nestlings nothing but insects.
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