Birds & Flight (It Turns Out Flying Is Hard)


What makes a bird a bird? One of the main characteristics of a bird is its ability to fly. Bird’s bodies are specially adapted for flight in unique ways.

A bird has hollow bones – this is why when a bird breaks a bone, it rarely survives.

Birds have few bones at that – for instance, no bones in the tail.

They also have no teeth.

Up to 40% of a bird’s weight is devoted to its pectoral muscles. Compare that to 2% in a human.

Birds don’t store waste the way humans do. Birds don’t have a urinary bladder.

And no discussion of how birds fly is complete without mentioning their wings. A bird’s wing creates airfoils that split the air – just as an airplane’s wings split the air. Air moves above and below the wing. The air moves faster over the top of the wing than the bottom. This creates lift.


Some birds – such as Frigate birds, can stay aloft for months at a time. Imagine what it would be like if humans could fly. It turns out that my eight-year-old self spent many hours trying to worth through this possibility. And yes I built cardboard wings and jumped off a small dirt mound in my backyard, breaking my nose in the process. I wish I could fly, but I cannot so instead, I spend as much time as I possibly can with the birds – watching them do it. It’s not a bad compromise.

Learn Birding

Scott Bourne View All →

Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary, a professional bird/wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He is a pioneer in digital photography and was named one of the “30 most influential photographers on the Web” by Huffington Post. His photographic experience spans four decades and his bird/wildlife images have been published in more than 200 magazines and periodicals. He is also a Signed Master at Studio of Masters in China.

Scott has been a founder, co-founder, advisor or early stage investor in several technology companies such as NetRadio, Photofocus, and ViewBug.

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