How Many Flightless Birds Are There? What Problems Do They Face? | Kidadl


How Many Flightless Birds Are There? What Problems Do They Face?

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Flightless birds are, as the name implies, grounded.

These birds, while they do possess wings, cannot fly. They are stuck to staying on the ground and have been a part of the world's wildlife for many centuries.

Flightless bird species are ancient birds. They are some of the most well-known birds, simply because of the eccentricity of not being flying birds. These birds are not able to fly because their wing muscles are not strong enough to support flight. This is a result of a genetic mutation that is also seen in insects such as the common fly.

While their wings are not strong enough for them to fly, it does not stop them from adapting to their grounded lives. There are about 40 species of flightless birds that exists. They have legs that are better developed, as seen with the ostrich. Their legs are much, much better than those of birds that can fly.

If you enjoy reading articles such as this one, go on and check out birds of Indiana and birds that are blue on Kidadl.

Iconic Flightless Birds

Some members of the avian species have grown to become more memorable than others. Let's take a look at some of them.

The first of this is the Emperor penguin. Penguins have always been fascinating creatures. They are cute and cuddly, living in one of the harshest environments known to humans. It is the largest species among penguins, at about 3.6-4.3 ft (1-1.3 m). This animal is native to Antarctica. Another iconic flightless bird species is the ostrich. It has been popularized through its title as the fastest flightless bird. In fact, it is faster than most animals living in the African Savannah.

Animals tend to hunt an ostrich because it is a prey animal, but only a select few are able to match the speed that it possesses. Apart from the ostrich, most flightless birds are outrun by mammals simply because they have an extra set of strong legs. Contrary to popular belief, the peacock can fly. It is not a flightless bird species. If it were a flightless species, it would certainly be the most beautiful one!

Dangers Of Being Flightless

Flightless bird species have long been facing the danger of extinction because of their evolution that caused them to be grounded. There are several threats they face in the wild that considerably shorten their life expectancies.

Unlike common birds, flightless birds do not have the ability to fly and evade predators. They are hunted by larger predators and either have to hide, or outrun their predators. The common ostrich is one such bird that evades predators by running at extremely high speeds, by using their strong legs to dash.

Another threat that a flightless bird faces is climate change. Humans are the biggest threat, bigger than predators in the wild, to birds who lack the ability to fly. Large herds were wiped out by European settlers in the 19th century. Poachers take advantage of the lack of flying ability, and these birds are consequently hunted down for their meat, as well as their skin to make leather apparels of clothing.

Know how the flightless birds are in danger.

Location Of Flightless Birds

Flightless birds can be found all over the world. Different species exist in various areas of the globe.

The important detail is that these birds are found in the Southern Hemisphere. This is because these birds migrated to these regions during a time when land bridges existed, and the continents were closer together. Africa is home to the fastest flightless bird species in the world, the Somali ostrich. These traverse the plains of the African Savannah. Ostriches are experts at dodging predators and while they do not fly, they can run faster than most animals in the African Savannah. These ostriches have cousins over in South America, known as rheas.

The continent of Oceania is home to several flightless species of birds. The Kakapo, commonly known as the owl parrot, is native to Australia. Here, emus are also found. The emu has caused a lot of problems for farmers in Australia by eating their crops. In fact, the Australian government had to start programs with the military to cull their growing numbers.

New Zealand is home to more than five species of flightless birds. New Zealand has quite a few of these flightless species. The first of these is the cassowary. The cassowary has three different species which are the northern cassowary, the southern cassowary, and the much smaller dwarf cassowary. Another near extinct species of New Zealand is the kiwi. New Zealand is also known to be home to a species of penguins.

Smallest And Largest Flightless Bird

Here we will take a look at the two extremes of the species, the smallest and the largest flightless birds known to humans.

The smallest flightless bird to live is the Inaccessible Island rail. This bird has a body length of merely 5.1-6.1 in (13-15.4 cm). It is indeed tiny! It is found to be native to the isolated region of the South Atlantic Ocean, on the Inaccessible Island in the Tristan Archipelago.

The largest bird that cannot fly is the ostrich. The size of an ostrich can be up to 9 ft (2.7 m) tall! With this incredible height, it is able to reach strides of longer than 12 ft (3.6 m). It is a very distinct species with its extreme size and colorful plumage. While the flight muscles are not strong enough to fly, they are indeed very beautiful to look at.

While the ostrich is currently the largest flying bird, it has not always been so. History shows that the largest flightless bird species were elephant birds. These birds have long been extinct, long before humans could have had the chance to interact with them. Elephant birds grew up to lengths of an astonishing 10 ft (3 m). What's even more shocking is that they could weigh 1000 lb (453.5 kg)! Fossils that have been recovered show that some of these birds grew to a size of 1900 lb (861.8 kg). It goes without saying that it was the largest living species of flightless birds to exist.

Continued Presence Of Wings In Flightless Birds

Why do wings still exist if these species of birds are not able to fly?

Most of these flightless birds in the natural world have vestigial wings. While they cannot use them to fly, these birds do need them to live in the wild. They have adapted to use their wings for different reasons. The most prime example is the way the ostrich utilizes these wings. Ostrich chicks learn at a young age to use these wings to maintain a form of rudder system while running at high speeds.

Additionally, it provides the ostrich with the ability to balance itself while running. For penguins, their flippers resemble fins and are used to swim. This movement resembles how birds use their own wings to fly. Penguins use these fins really well and this is seen by their rapid movement and speed in the water.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how many flightless birds are there then why not take a look at birds of Colorado or birds in Georgia.

Guitar-playing Siddharth can speak English and French and is a content writer for Kidadl.

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