When we talk about birds, we immediately think of their ability to move in the air. However, there are about forty species of birds unfit for flight recorded today on earth. Focus on 10 of them.
1 – the ostrich
Its name comes quickly when lingering on the flightless birds. The ostrich is not considered a very intelligent animal, but it compensates with an athletic body: it is considered the fastest land bird.
The ostrich cannot fly for several reasons. The first is that, like all ratites, its sternum does not present a bony outgrowth (the wishbone) on which the muscles allowing the flapping of the wings attach. The second is that the muscle mass in his pecs is insufficient to allow him to soar. Finally, the feathers are not kept in tight rows, nor are they waterproof.
However, the ostrich achieves sufficient performance to save its life in many situations. She has muscular legs that allow her to move her body 2 meters high (for females) – 2.80 m (for males), weighing between 90 kg and 150 kg, at a speed of 40 km / h, maintained for about thirty minutes, which can occasionally rise to 70 km / h peak. Running is not often necessary because adult ostriches do not have much predators. Sometimes they can be chased by cheetahs, leopards or lions. The former are sprint champions but do not hold 110 km / h for very long. As for the leopard, it barely reaches 58 km / h. Finally, the lioness achieves peaks at 70 to 80 km / h but is not very enduring.
The paws of ostriches are not only used to flee but are real weapons. They are composed of feet with 2 toes, one of the two presenting a sharp claw and several centimeters long. The bird can kill its predator with a swipe of its paw and, each year, on average, we deplore two human deaths who are not wary of the ardor that an ostrich can put in defending its territory. The most fragile remain the young ostriches which are the prey of raptors, snakes and hyenas.
2 – The emu
The emu is one of the oldest bird families in the Australasian region. It is, like the ostrich, another bird that is a member of ratites, characterized by the absence of a wishbone. Neophytes can easily mistake it for an ostrich. It is a bird of more modest measurements: an adult emu measures between 1.50 and 1.90 m and weighs only 30 to 45 kg, rarely 55 kg. Unlike ostriches, females are larger and heavier than males. Although its speed is comparable to that of the ostrich (50 km / h on average and peaks of 70 km / h), the lightness of the emu makes its performance less spectacular.
The Australian emu is the only surviving species of the dromaiidae family today. It was the arrival of settlers on the Australian island that caused their disappearance as emus were previously very common on the East Coast.
3 – The kiwi
The kiwi is a bird of New Zealand. Here is another one that belongs to the ratite group. But unlike the ostrich and the emu, it is a bird of more modest dimensions since it approaches the hen. Owen kiwi, roa kiwi, autral kiwi, Okarito kiwi and Mantell kiwi… There are now 5 species of kiwi fruit, but for how long? Because the last two are endangered and the first is the only one not to be considered threatened. The largest of them weighs 3 kg for 65 cm in height. In addition to not having a wishbone, they are birds said wingless. This means that they have no wings. The latter are simply too small, atrophied, and hardly stand out under the feathers which are also few in number and whose appearance is more reminiscent of hair than feathers. As for their bones, they are not hollow but filled with marrow. The threats weighing on these very particular birds are massive deforestation at the origin of the disappearance of their habitat. In addition, on arriving on the island, men introduced new predators such as rats, ferrets, stoats, cats, pigs, dogs or opossums (introduced into New Zealand for their fur), against which kiwis are very poorly armed.
4 – Campbell’s teal
Taking their name from an eponymous island in the south of New Zealand, Campbell’s teal is a duck. It is present today in its place of origin only thanks to reintroduction programs because it had been eliminated by the rats that accompanied the whale hunters, rats that it was also necessary to eradicate to ensure of the success of the operation. The bird measures about forty centimeters long for a maximum weight of 400 g. Like the other birds on this list, Campbell’s Teal (as well as Brown Teal) does not fly due to changes in skeleton and musculature associated with flight. However, each bird has evolved for different reasons since they are located on different points of the globe, evolve in different environments. Scientists are still making hypotheses today in an attempt to pinpoint the causes of such changes.
5 – The Galapagos cormorant
Among the birds that scientists have taken a close interest in trying to understand why a bird can stop flying is the Galapagos Cormorant. This bird has a special situation since it is the only of the 40 species of living cormorants not to fly. This inability is explained by a pair of atrophied wings, which is why it is also called the flightless cormorant. Its wings have moreover today the status of fin than wings. It does not have a wishbone but the rest of its body remains similar to that of other cormorants. But how and why did evolution take place? The answer would be genetic, with mutations being the result of positive natural selection. Obviously, his situation was complicated with the arrival of the man. Its prey becomes scarce with the development of industrial fishing and it gets caught in fishing nets.
6 – the weka rail
The weka rail also lives in New Zealand. It can be 30 cm high for a weight of 2 kg. Today, it is the subject of protective measures. However, he himself posed problems for other birds that he threatened. That is why the men tried to relocate it. However, it turned out that this bird was able to travel up to 150 kilometers on the high seas to reach its islands of origin. If threatened by the same predators as the kiwi, humans are not very friendly with them either, because they cause damage to farms. Unlike other animals which are very suspicious, the weka is curious and spontaneously approaches human beings who enter its territory, making it an easy target. The destruction of its habitats is a major cause of its disappearance.
7- The penguin
Of the 18 living penguin species, none is able to fly. These birds gradually took shape for swimming, their wings now serving as their fins. They spend an average of 75% of their time in the water. Gentoo penguins can reach speeds of 35 km / h underwater. If their ancestors could fly, scientists believe this development gave them better access to food. Their plumage has adapted to the aquatic environment: it is composed of two layers, one of very dense feathers forming a barrier to water, the other of thick feathers insulating the body. In addition, a gland located at the level of the tail secretes an oily substance that birds spread on their feathers to make them more waterproof.
8 – The Tasmanian gallinule
The Tasmanian gallinule is one of 12 bird species found only in Tasmania, southern Australia. It is a large rally, close to the moorhens that can be observed in our region. Its proportions are perhaps a little less harmonious, the bird having a massive body and a small head. It can grow up to 51cm tall and weighs an average of 1.3kg. Its legs are thick and powerful, scaly, terminated in sharp claws.
9 – The Strigops kakapo
We stay in New Zealand to discover the Strigops kakapo, also called parrot-owl. These parrots can measure up to 60 cm. They live at night. Their plumage is a beautiful yellow-green. This parrot is considered to be the bird with the longest life expectancy. But it is above all the only non-flying parrot of the world, its wings being too short and insufficiently powerful, an evolution probably due to the absence of predators. However, they can deploy and are used to cushion a descent like a parachute, and even to glide over short distances. It is also the heaviest parrot (between 2 and 4 kg). Like the weka rattle, it is not very fierce. He also has a problematic defense strategy since faced with a potential danger, he is content to freeze. The fight is fierce to save this bird from extinction.
10 – The helmeted cassowary
This bird, the largest of the cassowary family, lives in the tropical rain forests of the islands of Aru and Seram in Indonesia, New Guinea and northeastern Australia. It is considered dangerous, because its legs are terminated by three fingers, one of which has a 12 cm long and powerful claw. Measuring between 1 m and 1.7 m, it is the 3rd largest bird after the ostrich and the emu. He is able to jump in the air to injure his opponent thanks to short but powerful legs which also allow him to reach the 50 km / h. It is probably its 70 to 100 kg that is the biggest obstacle to theft. But her massive body is also covered with fine black feathers that make you think of a mass of hair. The bird with a long blue neck which supports a small head surmounted by the helmet which gives it its name, but has no particular use identified to this day. Other colored elements: the two red wattles which hang down under his neck.
Many species are disappearing while they still have a lot to reveal about their evolution, their choice of survival in relation to their environment. There is a real urgency in the study of endangered species.