And the answer: larks.
A group of flying larks is called an "exaltation." Larks are known for their melodious singing voices and excellent mimicry skills. This bird species is unique in that they sing while flying—a rarity among birds, as most only sing while perched.
With over 9,000 species of birds spread across the planet, these seemingly unsuspecting creatures have wildly varying qualities, habitats, patterns, likes, and dislikes. From the ostrich, who has eyes bigger than any other land animal on Earth (approximately the size of a billiard ball), to the classic raven, who enjoys mimicking speech patterns of humans, birds are some of the most complex and diverse species in the world. Test your knowledge, and learn something new, with this list of interesting bird facts:
1. Kiwis have been known as “honorary mammals.” Yes, they’re still technically birds, but this New Zealand native has some of the most bizarre tendencies known to bird kind—including some traits that lead scientists to lend the classification of “honorary mammal.” Highlights include (but aren’t limited to) feathers that feel more like hair, heavy bones with marrow, strong legs for running, and nostrils on the tips of their noses (rather than on the bases of their beaks like most birds).
2. The Hoatzin, or “stink bird” is born with claws on its wings. There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with this: baby Hoatzins grow small, spiky claws at the ends of their wings that eventually fall off as they reach maturity. Surely someone should have told them earlier that they aren’t dinosaurs anymore, but scientists suspect that the claws do have an evolutionary purpose. Hoatzins build their nests on tree branches that extend out over water, so when the chicks feel threatened, they’ll hop out of the nest and flop into the water below. Once the danger has passed, they paddle to shore, and use their wing claws to clamber up the tree and back into the nest.
3. The common parakeet can catch a yawn from his sleepy pal. Like humans, budgies, or common parakeets, are the first non-mammal discovered to be susceptible to contagious yawning. Interestingly, researchers from one 2015 study remarked that: “Yawning in response to sensing or thinking about the action in others may represent a primitive form of empathy,” suggesting that budgies might provide a good model to study empathetic processing in non-mammals.
Did you know? Yesterday was National Bird Day! Birds are some of the best measures of our environment’s health, which is why it remains a top priority to make sure bird species across the planet are supported against problems like habitat loss and disease. Birds are often considered living links to the past, being the closest-related animals to the evolution of dinosaurs, and are a vital asset to a functioning and thriving ecosystem. Learn more about how to get involved this National Bird Day here.