The Most Unusual Birds

If there were a contest for the most unusual bird, the penguin might win the prize. Of course the ostrich has a strange long neck and the peacock has beautiful tail feathers, which can spread out like a fan. The heron sleeps standing on one leg, and the pelican has a lower bill so huge it can hold a whole big fish. Hummingbirds can stay still in the air with their wings going so fast you can’t see them move. And woodpeckers have beaks so strong and pointed they can drill a hole in a tree-or even a house.

There is something unusual about the way each of these birds looks or acts. But what would the contest judges think about a bird that couldn’t fly,could swim through icy water as fast as a motorboat, could swim along, dive 30 feet under the water and then come up so fast it would zip out of the water high enough to jump over a wall, and would build a nest out of stones instead of twigs and grass?They’d think this bird-called a penguin-was a very unusual bird.

Almost anything that penguins do, they do in unusual way. Some baby penguins are born at the very cold South Pole during the long winter, when it is dark for many many days. As soon as the egg has been laid the mother penguin walks back to the ocean. The father penguin stays and balances the egg on his feet. A flap on his belly keeps the egg warm. He waits until the mother penguin returns, which is about the same time that the egg hatches.She feed the gray fluffy baby penguin from her beak.

Now it is the father penguin’s turn to look for food. The penguin’s feathers are very tiny and close together all over its body. This helps keep it warm. When it swims its light colored belly and dark colored back help hide it from enemies. From underneath in the water, its light belly makes it hard for the leopard seal to see it. From above its dark back looks like the dark water, helping to hide it from big hunting birds.

One kind of penguin makes its nest out of rocks. Another lays one big egg and one little one. But only the big one hatches into a chick. So no one knows why the penguin lays the little egg.Now would you be surprised if the penguin won the contest for the most unusual bird?

A Funny Looking Fisherman

The pelican holds many fish in its beak. They may last a day, but they won’t last a week. A pelican is nearly tall as you and its beak is as long as your arm. A long skin sack, or pouch, hangs down from its tremendous beak, making it look very different from other birds.

The pelican is a great fisherman, and it uses the skin pouch as kind of fishnet. It doesn’t fish standing on the shore or sitting in a boat as people do. It flies along the top of the water, flapping its huge, strong wings. When it sees a school of fish below, it dives kerplunk into the water, making a big splash and often scooping up several fish in its enormous beak. It squirts the water from its beak and leaves the flopping fish in its pouch.

If you could see a baby pelican eat its dinner, you’d laugh. The baby pelican isn’t strong enough to catch its own fish, so its mother catches fish for it. The baby then sticks its head into its mother’s mouth and eats the fish in her pouch.Pelicans can fly and swim gracefully, but you would laugh again to see them walk. They have webbed feet, as ducks do and on the ground they are even clumsier than ducks. They can’t sing or whistle either. They can only grunt.

Pelicans live in big groups and usually fly in a line and dive for fish together. Their homes are built on the shore with sand, dirt and a roof of sticks.