#200…SCIENCE, religion, etc.: “This one’s for the birds…”


Long ago we wrote about the lifespans of animals…


But what about the birds?


Especially when some (who should know) claim that some birds live to be more than 90.


For more use the DOOR.




      First, the source of my details is Bird Watcher’s Digest (Vol. 36, No. 5, May/June 2014). You can reach these folks (and learn about how to get a wonderful app that can do wonders in identifying birds) at customerservice@birdwatchersdigest.com or by calling 800-879-2473 or 740-373-5285.

     My connection here: My middle son, a world-class birder (as far as I’m concerned) and prof at Houghton College occasionally writes splendid articles for their intriguing 6-times-a-year magazine. (Note details like “Vol. 36”; they’ve been around a while…)

    I’m a very minor-league birder, so remember that.

    I’m intrigued by some behaviors of birds. The sand hill cranes in eastern Florida, for example, who can soar high, will fearlessly parade with their young across busy 4-lane highways and peck at the sides of cars if they don’t properly stop and wait till they get to the other side.

     And then most birds, having only needle-nosed plier beaks for tools, can weave together scraps of vines and twigs in trees or on top of high poles to make nests that hold together and protect incubating eggs even in the fiercest storms.

    And when the do-or-die day to leave home arrives and the new fledglings are pushed out, most survive, becoming fliers and masters of the air in ways that we envy…

    All this without books or training manuals.

    Perhaps what puzzles me most is that many birds can live on raw, rotten foods for many years, with few handicaps beyond predators and body lice. What do they have that we’re lacking? Lacking bookshelves or hand-held devices doesn’t seem to be a problem…

    When David M Bird (yes, that’s his name) was approaching 65, he wrote in an article, “Aging Parents,” that he began thinking about “senescence” (a great word btw) or old age. He relates a story about when he was in Kenya recently and a girl said she would like to have an African gray parrot as a pet. To her parents’ relief he informed them that a major consideration in keeping parrots is their incredible longevity. One must be prepared for the possibility that the parrot might outlive the owner. African grays, for example, can live to 60 or 70 years. And the longest absolute life-span record of any bird in the world goes to the macaws and cockatoos, which can hang in there well into their 90’s.

    According to Bird (40 years an ornithologist) “when [birds are] compared with those mammalian counterparts in terms of body mass, these ages are more than four times as old as one might predict. After all, birds in general have higher body temperatures, higher blood glucose levels, and higher metabolic rates than their furry friends, all of which, theoretically, should shorten their lifespans.”

    Data on long lifespans is often anecdotal and fragmentary–investigators, apparently, die off or have better things to do. Many birds, as expected, live no longer than 3 to 8 years, but Bird reports a Laysan albatross named “Wisdom” who raised a youngster at 62 and another at 63.

    (That’s more than enough for us here…)

Author: John Knapp

4 thoughts on “#200…SCIENCE, religion, etc.: “This one’s for the birds…”

  1. This reminds me of the sea turtles that live 200 years or something like that. Interesting stuff.

    1. Thanks for the comment. If we could identify the special turtle elixir that tunes everything up, maybe we could make some headway.

  2. This post DEMANDS a part II (to further explain how our avian friends’ physiologies manage up to 90 years.

    And then a part III to wallow in the wonder of the Sword-billed hummingbird of South America. It’s bill being so ridiculously long that the poor bird is reduced to preening itself with its hapless feet.

    Great post.


    1. Thank you, “middle son.” You’re approved for the two articles you’ve suggested.

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