Birds are one of the most magnificent living things. They are probably among the best loved animals in the world. We are captivated by their colorful form, intelligent actions and cheeky mannerisms. In the United States there are about 550,000 members of the National Audubon Society of America. The U.K. has over 1,000,000 members. Members are dedicated to protecting birds and they do bird watching to monitor them.
There are about 10,000 living species of birds. 2,000 species have been seen in North America (from Panama north and including the Caribbean), 925 in the United States and Canada, 3200 in South America, 2,300 in Africa, 1,000 in Europe, 2,900 in Asia, 1,700 in Australia and 65 in Antarctica.
The contenders for the most common bird in the world are: the Red-billed Quelea, Red Junglefowl (domestic chicken) and the European House Sparrow.
It is difficult to say which bird is the rarest. A couple of examples are the the Sudanese Red Sea Cliff Swallow (Hirundo perdita) seen once in 1984 and the Orange-necked Partridge (Arborophila davidi) seen once in 1927. Other birds are known or believed to be extinct in the wild but still have representatives living in captivity. One is the Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spiscii) hunted to the brink of extinction to satisfy the foolish demands of the pet trade.
Unfortunately, there are about 115 species of birds that are known to be extinct. The reason for extinction is mainly human interference. There are efforts to make up for the mistakes done in the past.
At one time there were only 4 wild Mauritius Kestrels. But, thanks to human effort, its numbers are back around 300. Another example is the California Condor, during 1987 there was only one male left in the wild and 27 condors were in captivity. As of August, 2010, there are 384 condors known to be living, including 188 in the wild (Wikipedia).
The largest bird can be measured in three possible ways-weight, height and length of wingspan. Unfortunately, all of the record holders for these three categories are already extinct. The heaviest bird was the Dromornis stirtoni from Australia. This flightless giant lived millions of years ago and probably stood nearly 10ft/3m tall and weighed in at a massive 1100lb/500kg. The tallest bird ever, as far as we know, was the Dinornus maximus, a Giant Moa from New Zealand. And the bird with the longest wingspan was the The Giant Teratorn Argentavis magnificens) which had a wingspan between 19.5ft/6M and 25ft/7.5m and was in the United States.
The largest living bird is the Ostrich. In Africa, the Kori Bustard, is the heaviest flying bird weighing in around 42 lb (19kg). Meanwhile, the smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird from Cuba.
We learn so much from birds. Bird watching is more than just watching birds. It is observing and learning from them in nature.