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Photo by Tom Grey

Physical Adaptation

Physical adaptation is the special design of a bird's body or how a bird looks. For example, the shape and size of their body, color of feathers, and length of legs, wings, bills. For example, a duck's foot is webbed and is specially adapted to help that duck swim better through the water.


See if you can guess the physical adaptations of these birds. Glide your mouse over the picture to see the answer. When you're done, check out the behavioral adaptations of birds.



American Avocet Black-necked Stilt Turkey Vulture
How can the Avocet sweep its bill through the water without drowning?   Why does the stilt have such long legs?   Why do Turkey Vultures look bald-headed?
If you look closely, you will see that its nostrils are close to its head. So, when it sweeps its long curved bill back and forth through the water to catch food, it can still breathe. The motion of the bill stirs up small crustaceans, which the Avocet eats.   Did you ever walk up in the air on stilts? A Black-necked Stilt has legs that raise it up for wading in shallow water. It can then poke its long, needlelike bill into the water for food. If necessary, it can swim by using its wings. These are ways the physical parts of its body help it to survive.   The Turkey Vulture's bright red head shows because it has no feathers on its head. The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds on dead animals. It pokes its head right into the dead animal's body where it will get covered with red blood. It doesn't have to worry about cleaning head feathers when it's through feeding. This also helps to keep the bird free of parasites.