Four Amazing Birds And Their ‘Superpower’ Abilities

Next time someone calls you a bird brain, take it as a compliment Chris Dart

“Bird brain.”

“For the birds.”

After insects, birds might be the most disparaged members of the animal kingdom. But birds are amazing animals, with brains that process information in ways humans could only dream about, and a whole host of other, amazing abilities.

Here are four birds that will leave you in awe of our avian friends.

Hummingbirds have “episodic memory”

For years, it was thought that only humans had episodic memory — the ability to remember not only “what” and “where,” but also “when.” But bird researchers have found that hummingbirds also have this capability.

A male rufous hummingbird can remember not only where the hundred of flowers in his territory is located, but in what order he last visited those flowers, and how quickly different flowers refill with nectar. For an animal that needs a meal every 10 minutes, that’s crucial data. And they do all that with a brain the size of a grain of rice.

Learn more about animal intelligence here Think Like An Animal

Great Horned Owls can crush their prey’s spine

Great Horned Owls might be the perfect predator. They hunt at night with large, forward-facing eyes that can see in low light, 100 times better than humans. Their binocular vision allows them to judge the distance from moving prey with pinpoint accuracy.

They have highly sensitive ears on the sides of their heads that allow them to hear mice and squirrels from 300 metres away, even if they are hiding under a metre of snow.

Great Horned Owls fly at low altitudes with wings that have comb-like edge feathers that muffle sound as they swoop down on prey. And the sensitive bottoms of the owls’ feet can feel their prey’s spine and crush it with lethal force.  Their victims don’t stand much of a chance.  Once spotted, this owl makes a kill about sixty percent of the time.

Watch the full doc here The Secret Life of Owls

Puffins are amazing navigators
Photo: iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Every Atlantic puffin has its own migration pattern, and they stick to it religiously. They spend eight months of the year alone at sea, but return to the same colony, even the same burrow, to mate with the same partner, year after year.

But how do puffins develop their migration patterns in the first place? Using geo-tagging trackers researchers are now starting to uncover the mysteries of where they go and how they survive over a long winter at sea.

They think that young puffins explore the North Atlantic, watching not only other puffins but other species of birds, as well as other animals, like whales, to figure out which parts of the ocean are rich in resources. From there, they develop a mental map of their migration routes, telling them where they can find food as they travel across the sea and back to their burrow come spring.

Watch the full doc here Puffin Patrol

Gannets are built for diving

Gannets are masters of the sea and sky and come equipped with a slew of adaptations that make them high-diving pros. 

They can spot a fish in the water from a height of up to 30 metres and catch their prey by diving into the water at speeds of 80 km/h. They’re built to take the impact. Gannets have reinforced skulls and hit the water beak first which absorbs some of the force. Air sacs in the face and chest also cushion the blow.

At the last minute, before they hit the water, gannets tuck their wings into their side, turning themselves into feather-covered aquatic missiles. The momentum carries them three metres under the water, and they can use their feet and wings to go up to 3 metres deeper.

A special opaque membrane drops over their eyes to protect them from damage, like sunglasses. And gannets have even evolved internal nostrils to prevent water going up its nose during a dive!

Watch the full doc Wild Canadian Year: Fall