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What makes a bird a bird?

Birds are pretty special, but have you ever stopped to wonder what sets them apart from the rest of the animal kingdom? There are over 10,000 different types of bird in the world, ranging from huge ostriches to tiny hummingbirds


Birds all have these things in common

  • They are the only animals with feathers
  • They don’t have arms, but instead have wings for flying (although not all birds fly!)
  • They lay eggs in nests
  • They are vertebrates (which means they have a skeleton)
  • They have beaks instead of a mouth with teeth


With so many different bird species in the world, it makes sense that they live in all sorts of habitats and ecosystems. Depending on where they live, they even develop unique features to help them survive


Cities & towns

  • Whether you live in a village, town, or city, you will have
    seen birds in your garden or local park. Even a small
    garden can be a haven for birds!
  • Many garden birds like blue tits and sparrows will make a
    home in bird houses or nest boxes. British garden birds
    also live in carefully created nests in trees or hedgerows





  • From tropical rainforests to North American pine forests
    and UK woodlands, forests can provide plenty of food and
    shelter for all kinds of birds
  • Birds that perch in trees have specially shaped feet to help
    them keep their grip


  • Familiar with seagulls? They’re just one of many species
    of seabird. Seabirds forage for their food at sea, before
    nesting back on shore
  • These birds have developed special filters in their beaks
    which let them drink salty sea water


  • Freshwater birds, which live near rivers, lakes and
    marshes, are expert swimmers, divers and waders
  • Just like seabirds, ducks and geese have webbed feet
    which act like paddles underwater, and waterproof
    feathers to keep them dry


  • Birds that live in these habitats have mastered the art
    of camouflage – there are less trees to hide in after all!
  • They have feathers that can blend into their surroundings and must hide their nests in thick vegetation or even underground

Nocturnal vs diurnal – what’s the difference?

We call animals that are awake at night nocturnal, and those that are awake during the day diurnal (just like us!)

  • There are many bird species that are nocturnal,
    but the ones you probably know best are owls
  • Owls hunt for their food at night because it’s less
    dangerous, and there’s less competition with
    other birds of prey
  • Birds of prey hunt for other birds and animals.
    Other birds of prey include hawks, eagles and
  • Owls have developed huge eyes and incredible
    eyesight to help them see in the dark. They can
    hear amazingly well too – picking up the quietest
    of faraway sounds
  • Also, owls have special wing feathers that allow
    them to swoop silently through the night, helping
    them to catch their prey

What do birds eat?

We’ve already mentioned birds of prey, which eat small animals, but different birds have different diets depending on where they live, and how much energy they need. Here are some common British birds, and what they typically eat in the wild

  • Blackbirds and robins – insects, earthworms,
    berries and seeds
  • Finches and house sparrows – seeds and caterpillars
  • Woodpeckers – nuts and seeds and insects from
    inside trees
  • Tawny owls – small birds, mice and frogs
  • Swans – vegetation, small fish, frogs and insects
  • Wood pigeons – vegetables, seeds, grains and berries

How can we help birds in the winter?

When winter comes around, some birds migrate thousands of miles to warmer places. Swallows can go as far as Africa, and geese come south to the UK from snowy northern countries


For the birds that do stay on our shores over winter, it can be tricky to find food.

The insects and worms they’re used to in summer are in short supply, so they rely more on things like nuts and seeds to fill them up. 

We can help keep birds healthy through the colder months by providing food and water in our own back gardens. Whether it’s filling up feeders with bird food from Peckish, keeping bird baths topped up, or making homemade seed cakes and fruity treats for birds to snack on