Out of curiosity, it must have crossed your mind, what happens when birds don’t have feathers? Can birds fly without feathers?
Today, we will cover an interesting topic (not the usual one) on birds’ ability to fly without feathers. Feathers are the unique identity feature of birds. And who would have thought something like this?
The straight-cut answer would be a BIG NO. But hold your horses! There’s more to it. And we will unfold it today!
Read till the end of our article, and you will learn the secrets of birds without feathers that you don’t know yet!
The Curious Case of Feathers:
- Feathers are the results of millions of years of evolution from the reptilian scales.
- Birds have different feathers, – contour feathers (shapes of the body), down feathers (for insulation), and filoplumes (tiny feathers for sensory).
- Water birds, like ducks and penguins, have special oil glands near the tails. This makes their feather waterproof, they can stay dry all day long.
- Some birds peacocks and hummingbirds display iridescent colors. It’s not pigments but a microscopic structure.
- Molting is common in birds. Bald eagles, for example, molt feathers in patches rather than all at once.
- Feathers are believed to have evolved from reptilian scales. Over millions of years, they transformed into the complex structures we see in birds today.
- Feathers can also make noise. For example, the wing feathers of male ruffed grouse make a drumming sound when they beat against the air during ritual.
- Birds can fluff up or flatten their feathers to regulate their body temperature. It traps more air for insulation while flattening offers heat to escape.
Can Birds Fly Without Feathers?
It’s like a human walking without legs! Birds are the only living creatures known for flying.
Can any other living creatures fly? I am pretty sure you won’t have one in your head, except for some fish who jump up high 18 inches. But that’s another story.
Without feathers, it’s impossible to fly. So, the answer is negative. But! Mother nature is full of surprises and one such mystery is the bats. Keep reading and find out for yourself.
Are Bats Birds? Why Do Bats Fly Without Feathers?
Bats can fly without feathers. Not believable, right? You will believe it once you read the next part of our article.
In the animal kingdom, bats are not even considered birds. People used to believe they were birds.
But bats purely fall into the mammals category. They give birth to young ones and don’t lay eggs like birds. And also, produce milk to feed the young ones.
That’s why a lot of traits don’t match with birds like their way of flying. Bats do fly but they don’t need feathers to do that. They have something special to help them fly, wings made of skin!
Bats have wings made of a thin, stretchy membrane of skin, instead of feathers. It spreads between their wide arm and finger bones.
How Do Bats Fly Without Feathers?
They stretch their wings out wide and create a big surface area. It helps them hold the air as they fly. Just like birds, bats also flap their wings. They move the wings up and down to lift and stay in the air.
Some bats such as the microbats, are smaller. They use their wings for agile and fast flight. They can even catch insects in mid-air.
Fruit Bats are also popular. They have large wings and use them to glide through forests in search of fruit. The big wings help them stay in the air for another long time.
However, bats aren’t the only creatures on earth to fly without feathers. Some lizards like the Draco lizards also fly following the footsteps of the bats. It’s interesting how planet Earth is filled with diversity and wonders!
There has been evidence that prehistoric birds (such as the pterodactyl) without feathers flew long distances. They also didn’t have feathers and relied on the webbed wings to fly.
Birds That Don’t Fly (Featherless Birds)
Modern birds have feathers without which, it’s impossible to fly. Some modern birds are labeled as ‘birds’ but they can’t fly. More to it, they have feathers too! So, who are the chosen ones?
The ostrich is a giant bird from Africa. They are also the biggest bird in the world. Ostriches don’t have adequate feathers like on most birds. Instead, they have feathers on some specific parts of the body.
Let’s say, they have feathers on their legs with bodies mostly bare. That’s why they totally can’t fly.
However, ostriches are perfect runners and they fly really fast (70km/h). Their legs are strong and featherless, making them faster than many other animals.
These birds are famous for being great swimmers, but they really can’t fly like other birds. And that’s too obvious!
They are sharp divers and swimmers. Consider it a trade-off! They do have special feathers but the feathers are more like waterproof suits. Thus, the feathers aren’t really for flying but instead to be used underwater.
Native to Australi, the Emus are the second-largest bird globally. They are popular for their long legs and are excellent runners but cannot fly.
One of the reasons why they can’t fly is because their wings are really short compared to the size of their body. They are the second tallest and fifth heaviest birds on our planet, meaning they are just too heavy to make a flying shot.
The list goes on. Other birds who are birds but can’t fly are, Rhea, Kiwi, Kākāpō, Takahe, and Rail Birds are a few known birds who can’t fly instead of having feathers.
Nature is a wonder! We never know what lies in it until we totally unfold it. The wings of birds we see today are the results of long evolution.
They didn’t start out as birds either! In the million years to come, birds might go through another form of evolution and inherit completely different physical features.
You can learn more interesting articles like this. Stay tuned with us for more. Also, don’t forget to share our article with your friends and other bird enthusiasts.