Birds are some of the most interesting but under-recognized animals around the world. Each bird adapts in different ways to its surroundings and is unique to its home continents characteristics. This blog will take a macro perspective on 7 interesting birds which are unique to their particular continent and why you should consider going to visit them.
Places to visit these awesome Birds:
This Map highlights the general areas in which you can come across these amazing birds and also pinpoints various tour operators which will help you on your quest to see these amazing birds in their natural habitat.
If you were hoping on seeing Puffins in the wild, consider getting in touch with Mr Puffin, or should your interest be in Toucans, the Toucan Birding Guides in South America could be the operators for you. In terms of Ground Hornbill sightings, its usually occasional to see these incredible birds on safari guides, in which case have a look at the Mabula Game Lodge which is involved in fantastic conservation programmes as well.
The Bankapura Peacock Sanctuary is available to see some native blue peacocks, or the Tennessee State Parks can help you on your desire to spot a bald eagle in North America. The Emperor Penguins are a little harder to get to, however Polar Cruises could assist you in your wish to see one of these amazing colonies of penguins by boat.
Birds of South America: The Toco Toucan
The Toco Toucan, also known as the common toucan or giant toucan, is the largest and probably the best known species in the toucan family. These bright and beautiful birds are found in semi-open habitats throughout a large part of central and eastern South America.
The indigenous people of the Amazon and surrounds consider these birds as very sacred and they are traditionally seen as conduits between the worlds of the living and the spirits.
Toucans are renowned for their large colourful bills. Their bills reach 20 centimetres and they have the longest bill of any bird in the world in relation to their body size of 63.5 cm. Despite its relative size, the toucan’s bill is very light as it is made of keratin- like human hair- in a honeycomb-like structure.
The bill is useful as a feeding tool. The birds use them to reach fruit on branches that are too small to support their weight. And the bill’s serrated edges are useful for peeling fruit. In addition to fruit such as figs, oranges and guavas, Toco toucans also enjoy eating insects, eggs and nestlings of young birds.
Both male and female toucans possess large, colourful bills. However, their bills exact purpose isn’t clear, though they’re believed to contribute to their in the courtship ritual and in self-defence. As a weapon, however, the bill is more show than substance- it’s merely a lightweight honeycomb of keratin and supported by thin rods of bone. While its size may deter predators, it is of little use in fighting them. The Toco Toucan can also regulate blood flow to its bill, allowing the bird to use it as a way to distribute heat away from its body.
These iconic birds are listed as “leased concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because they occupy such a large range. The species’ overall numbers, however, are declining. They are hunted for food and for the pet trade, where their bright colours and intelligence make them very popular.
Birds of North America: The Bald Eagle
The bald eagle is a bird of prey found in North America – its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and Northern Mexico.
Bald eagles can soar over 3,048 meters high, and their great eyesight lets them see fish up to a mile (1.6 kilometres) away. When they attack, they drop down at up to 100 miles (161 kilometres) an hour! Then they glide just above the water, snag a fish with their feet, and fly off to eat it in peace.
Bald Eagles have a very distinct look. The female bald eagles are slightly bigger than males. Their bodies can be three feet (one meter) long, and their wingspan can be eight feet (2.4 meters) across. That’s about the distance from the floor to the ceiling!
Eagle nests are called aeries. Bald eagles build their nests at the very top of tall trees so the eggs will be kept safe from predators. Some parents come back year after year to the same nest, adding more sticks, twigs, and grass each time. Babies, called eaglets, are born light gray then turn brown. When they are four to five years old, they develop their normal white heads and tails. In the wild, they can live to be 35 years old or more.
Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction because of hunting and pollution some time ago. But laws created almost 40 years ago have helped protect them, and they’ve luckily made a comeback.
Birds of Europe: The Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic puffins have penguin-like colouring but they sport a colorful beak that has led some to nickname the Atlantic Puffins the “sea parrot”. The beak fades to a drab gray during the winter and blooms with color again in the spring—suggesting that it may be attractive to potential mates.
Puffins live most of their lives at sea, resting on the waves when not swimming. They are excellent swimmers and use their wings to stroke underwater with a flying motion. They steer with their rudderlike webbed feet and can dive to depths of up to 200 feet, though they usually stay underwater for only 20 or 30 seconds. Puffins typically hunt small fish like herring or sand eels. In the air, Puffins are surprisingly fleet flyers. Puffins reach speeds of 55 miles an hour by flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute.
Atlantic puffins land on North Atlantic seacoasts and islands to form breeding colonies each spring and summer. Iceland is the breeding home of perhaps 60 percent of the world’s Atlantic puffins. The birds often select precipitous, rocky cliff tops to build their nests, which they line with feathers or grass. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it. When a chick hatches- the baby Puffin appropriately named a pufling- its parents take turns feeding it by carrying small fish back to the nest in their relatively spacious bills. Puffin couples often reunite at the same burrow site each year although it is unclear how these birds navigate back to their home grounds. They may use visual reference points, smells, sounds, the Earth’s magnetic fields—or perhaps even the stars.
Birds of Africa: The Southern Ground Hornbill
Roughly the size of a turkey, the Southern Ground Hornbill is the largest species of hornbill on Earth and incredible to see in the wild! Despite their large size they can fly up to 18 miles an hour and has an impressive wingspan that reaches about four feet across. This bird is recognizable by its jet-black feathers, yellow eyes, and bright red throat.
The Southern Ground-Hornbill is widely distributed, occurring in north Namibia and Angola, to northern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe through to Burundi and Kenya.
Their bill is black with a low casque ridge at its base. Southern Ground-Hornbill adult males have red bare facial skin while females have a patch of dark violet blue on the throat. Young birds display pale grey/cream facial skin and grey sides on the bills and sooty-brown plumage. The adult plumage develops at about three years of age, and the facial skin will progressively turn pink, orange then red over the three to five-year period.
The species is well adapted for the terrestrial lifestyle; they have long stout legs, and they walk on the terminal joints of their short toes. The species moves around the landscape by walking slowly in a group formation. And they spend about 70% of their day on the ground, foraging for food.
Two to three eggs are laid three to five days apart. The older chick will then outcompete the younger chick for food, which results in the younger chick dying of starvation. Consequently only one chick is raised after the first couple of weeks. Southern Ground-Hornbill are believed to reach maturity at about eight years of age, with an average of one chick fledged every six years. There is approximately 70% juvenile mortality rate. However the survivors usually live for 40 to 50 years and the oldest bird recorded was more than 60 years old.
Birds of Australasia: The Emu
The Emu is Australia’s tallest native bird, reaching between 1.6 m and 1.9 m when standing upright. Adult Emus are covered with shaggy grey-brown feathers except for the neck and head, which are largely naked and bluish-black. Their wings are greatly reduced, but their legs are long and powerful. Each foot has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe. Most people see Emus along roadsides, near fences or other barriers, giving the impression of close association. However, Emus are not really social or friendly, except for young birds, which stay with their father.
Standing at up to 1.9 metres tall, the flightless Emu is one of the world’s largest birds. One of the first birds to be discovered in Australia by Europeans, it was instantly recognised as an unusual species. One its unusual traits is its domestic life: after the female Emu lays her dozen or so green eggs, she leaves the male to incubate them on his own, and after they have hatched, the striped chicks are also looked after by the male, with no contribution from the female.
Interestingly these unusual birds can live between 10 and 20 years in the wild and are recognised for their bizarre eyes! They have two sets of eyelids, one for blinking and the other for keeping the dust out.
Birds of Asia: The Blue Peacock
Peacocks are large, colorful pheasants (typically blue and green) known for their iridescent tails. These tail feathers, or coverts, spread out in a distinctive train that is more than 60 percent of the bird’s total body length and boast colorful “eye” markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues.
The Blue Peacock is the most well known Peacock which is world renowned for its stunning blue and green feathers and is found in Sri-Lanka and India predominantly.
Peafowl such as the Blue Peacock have been admired by humans and kept as pets for thousands of years because of their beauty. Selective breeding has created some unusual color combinations, but wild birds are themselves bursting with vibrant hues. They can be feisty and do not mix well with other domestic birds, so do not keep them as pets and discourage others from doing so!
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the blue peafowl as a species of least concern.
Birds of Antarctica: The Emperor Penguin
The Emperor penguin is the largest member of the penguin species, and is known for its stately demeanour and the adults which are coloured black and white with areas of orange and yellow on the head, neck, and breast.
Juveniles are smaller, and their plumage is similar to that of the adults, with pale white to light grey feathers in place of those coloured orange and yellow. The down feathers on the bodies of Emperor chicks are a silver-grey colour. Although the feathers that surround their eyes are coloured white, those that cover the rest of the head are black.
The species gathers together into approximately 40 colonies that settle on ice shelves and land ice along the coastline of Antarctica. Emperor penguins are capable of diving to depths of approximately 550 metres (1,800 feet) in search of food and are therefore appropriately known as the world’s deepest-diving birds.
Some members of this species may grow to approximately 130 cm (about 50 inches) long and weigh 25 to 45 kg (55 to 100 pounds).
In closing, this blog shines a little bit of light on the diversity of birdlife we have all around the globe. There are so many stunning and rare birds which call millions of birdwatchers every year to travel miles to see them.
If you enjoyed reading this, you may be interested in other unique animal blogs on this site. Particularly what impact Covid-19 has had on the wildlife around the globe and possible where to consider traveling to see wildlife after the corona virus. Click below to read more: