Birds are beautiful, captivating, and sometimes just downright weird. They decorate their nests with cow pies, use their feet like snowshoes in the winter, or swallow rats whole. And if these odd habits don’t catch your interest, there are avian feats of speed and agility that put our Guinness World Records to shame.
The species below are all unique and peculiar in their own way, and they’re also at risk from our changing climate. Check out these nifty birds and their strange habits (and what you can do to help them):
- During courtship, the male Allen’s Hummingbird zips back and forth through the air, then dives at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour from 100 feet high—all to impress a potential mate.
- The Burrowing Owl lines its burrow with cow or horse manure to attract dung beetles—nothing like a crunchy, poop-flavored snack while relaxing in your nest.
- The Eastern Whip-poor-will and related birds have the family name of Caprimulgidae, Latin for goat-milker or goatsucker. Popular lore claimed that goatsuckers could drain a goat’s udder dry of all its milk.
- You don’t want to mess with a Bald Eagle: They have razor-sharp talons that can penetrate or crush bone. However, eagles also have a playful side and have been known to toss prey or sticks back and forth to each other in mid-air.
- Winter sports? Bring it on. The toes of the Ruffed Grouse grow projections in the winter to form comb-like snowshoes that allow them to walk over the snow.
- Female Northern Shovelers may defecate on their own eggs when flushed from the nest. The purpose of this stinky defense mechanism is to divert predators—which, not surprisingly, works wonders.
- The Common Loon has gleaming red eyes and has four distinct calls: the wail, the hoot, the tremolo, and the yodel.
- Female Cerulean Warblers steal caterpillar silk and spider webs to add to their nests. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Oriole gobbles up hairy and spiny caterpillars that most other birds avoid. Now who’s hungry, caterpillar?
- The plumage of the Tundra Swan contains more than 25,000 feathers, more than any other species of bird.
- Think that your cat’s hairballs are kinda gross? A Barn Owl can swallow an entire rat whole. Afterwards, it coughs up a pellet of bones and fur. Yum!