There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a rare bird. But not all birds are rare because of their species. Some are common birds that are just… really weird looking.
If you’ve seen BBC’s Planet Earth, you may recall of one of its sillier scenes: the superb bird-of-paradise mating dance. A female hops up to a male, who unveils a mane of feathers and puts on a performance like a drunk rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at a karaoke bar. But when the male bird faces the camera, things go black—way black. Skip to 2:34 in the video below. This bird’s feathers are so black that you can’t see any of its facial features, just radiant blues on a sea of natural Vantablack.
This has been a huge year for finding specimens in amber, from bird wings to dinosaur feathers to this ugly-ass bug. But this new finding might be the best one yet: a nearly complete 99-million-year-old baby bird.
Years ago, Danny Abrams heard about a strange phenomenon: Deer skeletons were being found beside trees in the forests of the Midwest. These male deer had apparently gotten their massive, unwieldy antlers caught in the branches, where they’d found themselves trapped. Unable to find food or flee predators, they quickly met their demise.
Bird lovers, let’s hear it for the little guy. Researchers have just discovered evidence that common swifts (a small type of bird) can spend 10 continuous months per year in the air without landing—a world record for sustained flight in nature.
When a pigeon flies, you can hear it sloppily slap its wings as it makes its way through the air. When a peregrine falcon flies, the flight is powerful and beautiful but you can still hear the movement. When a barn owl flies? Complete silence. It’s amazing to see. BBC Earth set up microphones along the flight path of the birds to let us hear the difference.