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Sunbathing and crazy coloration: A few favorite bird fake-outs

Birds are such incredible animals, and so many times they have us stopping in our tracks, trying to figure out what is going on – whether it’s a behavior they are presenting or a chance to explore why some birds look the way that they do. I am sure that some of you who have visited the Zoo and have seen our Victoria crowned pigeons or southern ground hornbills just sprawled out on the ground. This can cause quite a bit of alarm for visitors who think that the bird has been injured or worse. In most cases, though these birds have just faked you out. What is really happening is that they have just found a nice resting place that catches all those beautiful sunrays. That’s right, they may look like they are unwell but really, they are just sunbathing on their side with a wing up in the air. It may look ridiculous to us, but for them, that is just what comes naturally. So, when you are visiting the Zoo and see these birds, do not let them deceive you. That said, if you are ever concerned or have a question, feel free to let one of us know. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and we love hearing from you as well!

Another way that birds can be misleading is by their coloration and feather appearance. Quite often people will see a very beautiful bird and assume that it is a female. While it is true that with some species of birds both the male and female have brightly colored feathers, there are several species where the male is the more vibrantly colored or has more majestic feathers. Now this might not seem right for some of you, but there is a reason for it in most cases. With a lot of bird species, the males use their vibrant coloration or unique feather patterns for attracting females during the breeding seasons. The more they can stand out, the more attractive it is to the females. Having bright or long feathers may be great for attracting females, but these features are also more likely to attract predators. For this reason, it’s common for male birds to not have as long lifespans in the wild. The females in most species of birds have more neutral colors that blend in well with their surroundings. This helps them in the breeding season while they are doing the majority of sitting on nests or raising their chicks.

These are just a couple quick bird facts that I wanted to share with all of you. The next time you come out to the Zoo, be sure to be on the lookout to for our birds sunbathing, or if see you can tell our males from females apart. There’s always something to learn and observe with animals.

Katherine B.
Keeper III, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl