Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the aves, characterized by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton.
Birds live worldwide and range in size from the bee hummingbird to the ostrich, and are feathered theropod dinosaurs, and thus constitute the only known living dinosaurs. Likewise, birds are considered reptiles in the modern cladistic sense of the term, and their closest living relatives are the crocodilians. Birds are descendants of the primitive avialans (whose members include Archaeopteryx) which first appeared about 160 million years ago in China.
The vast majority of bird species are socially (but not necessarily sexually) monogamous, usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, and rarely for life. Other species have breeding systems that are polygynous (one male with many females) or, rarely, polyandrous (one female with many males). Birds produce offspring by laying eggs which are fertilized through sexual reproduction. They are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended period of parental care after hatching.
These appendages, which are modified forelimbs, give birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in some birds, including the extinct dodo, ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds have further evolved for swimming.
Bird characters in mainstream media
Birds and furry
- Arms: In birds, wings are extended forelimbs with long, strong feathers, meaning that a direct anthropomorphization would result in a being with wings instead of arms. There are four main ways around this:
- Toony wings, in which the wing feathers double as fingers. This is frequently seen in cartoons but is very unrealistic.
- Normal wings, in which the character possesses regular bird wings, which is possibly the most popular option.
- "Wing arms", which are wings modified into arms. This takes into account the wing's evolutionary history as a forelimb, which often shows claws on wings. This feature can be seen today in a vestigial form in juveniles hoatzins.
- Back-mounted wings, and arms; this is the second most popular option, as it enables flight and skill, but all other options can also achieve that as birds grip onto objects with their feet and talons.
Sexual anatomy and reproduction
- Some furry male birds have a phallus, including ostriches, emus, rheas, ducks, geeses, and swans. However, many artists draw anthropomorphic bird characters with a phallus regardless of species. Less ambiguity is a major advantage of griffins, in which the rear half is not avian. In real life, most male birds deposit sperm in the female through their cloacae, but cloacae are extremely rare on male bird characters anyway.
- Breasts on females? - These are often the only clear indication of gender, but real birds, not being mammals, lack them.
- Oviposition is the bird process of laying eggs for (normally) reproduction (a process shared by scalies, fish and monotremes). They're usually laid with the help of a very human-like set of reproductive organs (vagina, vulva, uterus, etc.), despite real female birds possessing a cloaca (or "vent") instead, passing eggs through what is essentially an anus. Female birds usually lay multiple eggs at once, whereas real birds lay one a day over the course of a period of time.
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