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Birds - Vertebrates Slideshow

Examples of vertebrate bird species

Look up in the sky! It's a bird!

That's it. If you see a vertebrate flying above you it is probably a bird. Sure, you might find a gliding squirrel or a bat, but it's usually a bird. While there are some species that cannot fly and others that spend much of their life in the water, most birds fly. They range in size from tiny hummingbirds to large eagles. There are more living species of birds than any other vertebrate group. With about 10,000 species, there is a huge variety.

An interesting fact about birds is their close relationship to reptiles. According to fossils, the first bird-like species began appearing about 150 million years ago. They weren't bright green parrots, they probably looked more like dinosaurs with weird feathers. As the years passed, they became more adapted for flight (and swimming) and developed lighter bones, beaks, hard-shelled eggs, and four-chambered hearts.

Bird species can be found across the planet. Since they can regulate their body temperature (homoeothermic), they can travel to colder locations than reptiles. There are penguins swimming through the oceans, owls in the sub-arctic forests, and eagles soaring several thousand feet above land. They are found everywhere and eating almost anything. Some birds can be found eating seeds or nectar from flowers. There are scavengers such as vultures that eat dead animals. Of course, you all know about raptors that hunt small animals across the world. Birds have colonized almost every ecological niche there is.

Image Credit: Andrew Rader Studios

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