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How do birds adapt to their environment?

Your environment is where you live. For birds this is where they search for food and bring up their young.

darwinIt was a very clever scientist called Charles Darwin that first thought about adaptation. From a young age he was interested in science and exploring. Charles was 22 years old when he was invited to join a voyage round the world. H.M.S. Beagle was a ship responsible for travelling the globe, making maps of coastlines. This voyage took Charles to many interesting places where he could study even more animals. Probably the most famous of his visits was his journey to the Galapagos Islands. It was here that Charles saw lots of different birds called Finches. The strange thing he noticed was that on different islands the birds looked similar to other finches, but they were also different. He realised that the birds had changed, perhaps over only a few decades (remember that birds breed every year). The different types of finches had different beaks so that they could eat different food! Different foods on the different Islands meant that the birds could survive using their special power "tool" - its BILL!

Website: Charles Darwin and Evolution   

Today most people accept Charles Darwin's theory that species are changing all of the time. The animals that are suited to their environment will survive but those that are not will die. When scientists look back at fossils they can see these patterns.

Feet are very important things - they are how animals get around! So what about ducks and waders that live near water? Their feet are wide, often "webbed", so that they can swim well and also walk on mud without sinking. Can you think why Birds of Prey and Owls have such sharp claws?

adult swanSkin covering is also very important. Watch a Swan and notice that its neck is covered in thick dense feathers. A swan eats the pond weed and creatures living under water so why are the neck feathers so useful?

Most water birds are also waterproof - they have oil from their beaks that they spread over their precious feathers. Also the colour of feathers, or fur, is an adaptation that helps an animal survive. Do you remember the female ducks that sit on the nest? They are often brown coloured, this is for camouflage.

Wild and wonderful Birds!

spoonbillThe exotic Spoonbill. The name tells you a lot about this bird! The Spoonbill is much bigger than our Grey Heron. It lives near water and uses that amazing beak to "scoop" insects from the water. The great news for us in the UK is that the Spoonbill can now be seen on the south coast, so do look out for them if you visit Pagham Harbour or Poole in Dorset.

One of the most famous birds in the Peregrine; the fastest animal on the planet! Look at a picture of a  Peregrine diving. That streamlined shape means it cuts through the air at speeds above 100mph!

One of the most common birds that you see in school grounds or parks is the Green Woodpecker – This bird loves to eat ants! It has a super-ant-eating-trick of his own - a very sticky, very, very long tongue. The Green Woodpecker uses this amazing tool to get ants out of their nests. YUMMY! Its tongue is wrapped around inside its head!

amazing birds

ptarmigan 3Penguins. We know that Penguins have super powers to survive life in the South Pole. Streamlined for swimming, layers of fat to keep warm and thousands of waterproof feathers. What about in the coldest parts of the UK? There's a special bird called a Ptarmigan that lives in the mountains of Scotland. Look at the picture - what colour are the Ptarmigan's feathers in the winter? How does this help the Ptarmigan survive the worst time of the year?


Charles Darwin (Top)    Swan (Middle)    

Green Woodpecker and Peregrine (Middle)   Ptarmigan (Bottom)