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From top to bottom: Northern Cardinal, Baltimore oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Barn Swallow

From top to bottom: Northern
Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-
gray Gnatcatcher, Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, Barn Swallow

(Courtesy NEBRASKAland

Take a look at all the birds in your backyard sometime. Chances are you'll see several different types of birds, each with different beaks, coloration, body shapes and bills.

These birds live in the same basic habitat – the city. So why are they so different?

If all birds ate exactly the same food, lived in exactly the same place, and tried to raise their young in exactly the same habitat, they would all be competing for the same types of food, water, shelter, and space.

Fortunately, different birds fill different niches (areas within the habitat). Over time, they've developed special ways to adapt to their unique place in the environment so that they have a better chance of surviving.

Some of these adaptations or changes are physical, like the shape of the bill. Some adaptations are behavioral, like singing a special song.

Usually, the physical and behavioral characteristics that get passed along through the generations are the traits that help the bird survive the best.

One of the cool ways to see how a bird has adapted to its environment is to take a close look at its bill and feet. Bird beaks and feet come in all shapes and sizes. Each is equipment especially suited to help that bird find food and raise young.

Birds have also developed special wings and body coloration to help them survive. For example, the short, rounded wings of pheasants and quail help them make quick take-offs to escape predators. Some birds of the prairie have developed special coloration that helps them blend into the tall grass and wildflowers, so predators can't find them.

Click on an adaptation to see the many special features and behaviors Nebraska birds have adapted to survive in the special places they live.


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