Link - article by M. Christian and A. Abrams

      What's that thing flying at the cruising altitude of a modern jet? In a
        deadly cold, without air?

      Common ducks routinely reach altitude of 5 to 6 kilometers (20,000


      We see them all the time, rowing across a clear, blue sky, applauding into
      the air when we startle them, singing their sharp, sweet songs in the
      trees, spiraling, spinning over our heads … but when you take a bit of
      time and do a smidgen of research, you realize that birds are fascinating
      creatures, capable of some truly remarkable things.

      A barn swallow flies precisely into a two-inch opening of a door at a
        speed of 56 km/hr (35 miles per hour) -

      (image credit:
        Keith Ringland)

      Take, for example, the members of the anatidae family. Not familiar
      with them? Sure you are: aside from the city pigeon, they are probably one
      of the first birds people think of. Still fuzzy? Well, think ‘season’ and
      you might very well jump to ‘duck.’

      It’s common knowledge that many birds migrate – some halfway around the
      world, others not very far at all – but a few species of duck travel
      amazing distances as part of their regular travels, and at phenomenal
      speeds. The black brant is one such record holder, making the trip from
      the cold climes of Alaska to the much-warmer lands of Baja, California. No
      need to do the math: that’s more than 3,000 miles. A distance, by the way,
      covered in less than 72 hours.


      The ill-respected duck is also a record holder for not just distance and
      time but also altitude. Although they commonly aren’t high flyers,
      preferring to stay relatively close to the ground, ducks have been
      recorded soaring to close nearly 20,000 feet (that's more than
      6 kilometers).


      That most definitely is a ‘wow’ thing but what’s an even bigger – more
      like a real big WOW – is that a duck skeleton was found at 16,000 feet …
      in the form of a skeleton on Mount Everest. (this scientific
      discusses how ducks can actually breath and keep their body warmth at
      these altitudes) For altitude, ducks are amazing, no denying that, but if
      you want to get really, really high you have to look at the extremely ugly
      Rüppell's Vulture. That might not be fair to the bird, but ugly or
      not this vulture wears a handsome medal for going where no bird, or even a
      lot of airplanes, have gone. Ducks, sure, deserve applause for 20,000 feet
      but the Rüppell's Vulture goes more than just one better, attaining a
      remarkable 38,000 feet (almost 12 kilometers). Alas, the record was
      set when the poor bird got sucked into a jet engine at that height but you
      still have to admit that it was quite an accomplishment.


      Take the Sooty Shearwaters. Sounds like a comedy character, doesn’t
      it? But what this seabird does is anything but funny. Remarkable, yes.
      See, the Sooty holds the current record for the longest migration. Period.
      Think 3,000 miles was wild for a duck? Well, the Sooty travels from New
      Zealand, or thereabouts, out to the waters of the North Pacific (Japan as
      well as California), which is a trip much, much longer than just Alaska to
      California. In fact, it’s a round trip just shy of
      40,000 miles (more

      (image credit:
        National Georgaphic)


      Here’s something that will really make you think twice about swearing at
      the next swallow that poops on your windshield: the
      Peregrine Falcon is not just a regal bird as well as a magnificent
      hunter: it can spot, and then swoop down on, its prey from more than half
      a mile away. But what’s astounding is the speed of the falcon, considered
      by many to be the fastest animal in the entire world, when it attacks.
      Faster than a cheetah, faster than a greyhound: the falcon has been
      clocked at close to 200 miles per hour. Yep, that deserves another

      (originals unknown)

      But birds don’t have to be huge or travel long distances to be marvelous
      (though, in case you’re interested, the biggest living bird in the world
      is the ostrich, which can weigh as much as 350 pounds). The members of the
      family trochilidae – Hummingbirds to you and me -- aren’t big,
      don’t travel far, but they are certainly fast in their own way. Among the
      smallest of birds, they beat their wings up to 90 times per second –
      allowing them to fly every direction including backwards – and the hearts
      that power them can beat at more than 1,000 beats per minute -
      16 heartbeats in a second!

      (original unknown)

      Waddling across grassy fields, gliding through the air, becoming elegant
      silhouettes against the white of clouds, they are all around us: the
      magnificent – and amazing – owners of the sky. So let’s give the birds
      their due as well as some well-deserved respect.

      (beautiful "stained glass" art by
        Elizabeth Gast)

      PS. Humans of course can not fly. But they keep trying:




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Blogger Unknown said...

Oh the first one is scary as hell like NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET twilight zone!!
I can't bring the link on youtube though, i've watched a jet accidentally hit Migratory Birds at high attitude.

Blogger Nefarious Wheel said...

Emus are considerably larger than Ostriches, notes this Australian

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love the last picture; the event is on the news every year.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Emus are considerably larger than Ostriches, notes this Australian]

Sorry, but the Ostrich is the largest bird species, not the Emu.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have nothing against ducks, and I don't denigrate the fact that 6km is very high. But a modern jet liner flies at twice that altitude.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you get your facts?! The Sooty Shearwater is outdone by the Bar-Tailed Godwit, which flies from Alaska to New Zealand, without stopping! Also, the bird with the longest migration flight is The Arctic Tern, flying from pole to pole. The Sooty Shearwater?! Pffft...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hummingbirds ...aren’t big, don’t travel far,...


Many species migrate between Mexico (or further south) and Canada. The Rufous hummingbird migrates all the way up to Alaska, following the USA Western Seaboard.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would point out that crows are considered more intelligent than dogs. Crows have been known to use timing and precision to have cars crack open nuts. Seeing the success of this, other crows model the behavior. not to mention they have over 200 unique calls with often specific meanings. Saw this on "is it possible" on discovery...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only are ducks amazing, they taste good, too.


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