Ask Ms Carleen what she thinks about birds and she’ll get all excited and tell you that “Birds are so cool!”
Have you ever seen a penguin swim? They dive into the water and they flap their wings in such a way that it looks like they’re flying under the water!
Have you ever seen a duck swim? They float on top of the water looking so calm while their feet paddle back and forth furiously keeping them in place or moving them to where they need to go!
Have you ever seen a penguin just float on the surface? How about a duck dive deep under water? No? Of course not! Penguins and ducks are built for different environments, foraging for different food, and for their own ways of swimming!
Here are three of our favorite experiments to help you understand more about birds!
- Paper towel
- Drip water on feather over the paper towel.
- Drop water on paper towel.
Water runs off a feather to keep birds water resistant — totally the opposite of an absorbent paper towel! When a bird preens its feathers with the oil from its preen gland, it is coating the feathers with a water resistant oil which allows them to stay dry.
- 3 sheets of copy paper
- Paper plate
- Pennies or other objects with weight
- Roll up the three sheets of paper along the long side, leaving about a 1”-1.5” diameter hole in the center.
- Tape the tubes you just created.
- Stand the 3 tubes up on their ends, creating a triangle of tubes onto which you can place the paper plate.
It should look like a pedestal with the plate held up by 3 columns.
- Make a hypothesis on how many of your “heavy” objects your hollow “bones” will hold.
- Start stacking your objects on the plate to see if you were right!
Birds have bones with less bone marrow than mammals. Less marrow doesn’t make bird bones less strong, it simply makes them less dense. Birds need their bones to be less dense so they are able to get more lift from their wings to be able to fly.
Ducks vs. Penguins
(this is not a hockey reference!)
- Tall glass or vase filled with water
- Two straws
- Tape up the two ends of one straw sealing them completely, being careful not to use too much tape, making the straw heavy.
- Tape one end of the second straw using the same amount of tape you used on each end of the first straw.
- Fill the second straw with sand and seal up the open end.
Makes sure you seal the sand straw completely so sand doesn’t flow out.
NOTE: Try to use the same amount of tape for both straws. You want the only variable (the thing in the experiment that changes) to be sand in one and air in the other.
- Make a hypothesis as to what you think will happen if you drop both straws into the water.
- Drop them into the water and observe!
Ducks are built for flying and floating whereas penguins are built for diving and swimming. A duck’s bones don’t have much marrow which makes them less dense.
Penguins, on the other hand, have dense bones and bodies which allows them to swim under water more easily and to stay warm in the water. A penguin’s wing bones are also fused together to allow them to work as flippers in the water!