Sunday, April 12, 2009

Flightless birds

Happy Easter! A brief respite from bloodthirsty historical figures for the holiday... I didn't realize that kiwis have no wings at all until I read it in Ripley's. I decided to look into this further and can report the following:
  • There are about 40 species of flightless birds living today, most notably the penguin, ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea, and kiwi (all pictured).
  • Most flightless birds evolved in the absence of predators - many in New Zealand - and rely on their ability to run or swim, with the exception of ostriches, emus, and cassowaries, which can defend themselves with their claws.
  • Flightless birds have small wing bones and a small or non-existent keel bone to which the wings attach at the breast. The vestiges of the kiwi's wings are entirely hidden by its feathers.
  • Extinct flightless birds include the moa, elephant bird, the great auk, and the dodo.
  • Many species of flightless birds have marrow-filled (rather than hollow) bones.
  • The ostrich is the largest bird in the world and the kiwi lays the largest egg in relation to its body size.
I am pround to have an ostrich egg (off-white) and an emu egg (blue-black) in my Museum - but only chocolate eggs in my Easter basket!

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