Most Unique and Interesting Birds from Maryland by Matan R.
Animals are some of the most fascinating things in the whole universe. Like humans, they are living creatures and require food, water, shelter, and air. Many animals also have abilities far superior to humans, like dogs’ incredible sense of smell, or caterpillars’ ability to turn into butterflies. However, us humans have superior intelligence that sets us apart from wild animals. Animals are still incredible beings, and there are quite a few interesting species to learn about, even from our home state of Maryland! There are far too many different species of animals to look at them all, so I picked out a few of the local birds that stood out to me the most. Enjoy!
The Canada goose is pretty commonly found throughout Maryland, but they are one of the most interesting birds around here. When Canada geese hatch, they follow their mother (or at least what they think is their mother) constantly. They also often learn how to swim within 24 hours of hatching, which is astounding, considering many humans don’t learn until they’re several years old. Geese also learn how to fly within the first few months of their life. Then, they slowly grow more independent from their parents, and eventually they are known to group together with other young geese, which is a lot like humans when you think about it. Next, they find a mate for life. Also, when they migrate, geese are known to fly in a V-shaped formation. The reason for this is that the front bird breaks the wind resistance, making it easier for all the birds behind them. Another thing geese are known for is the ability to communicate. It is believed by scientists that there are at least 13 different sounds they make to communicate with each other. Finally, the Canada goose has to eat an astounding amount of food: often they spend 12 hours or more eating every day! That’s an insane amount of food.
The hooded merganser is a very interesting looking bird with a lot of riveting facts. They are one of the coolest looking birds you’ll ever see. As for the fun facts, hooded mergansers are known to sometimes lay eggs in other females' nests, which is known as "brood parasitism." According to allaboutbirds.org, “Hooded Mergansers find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. In addition, they have an extra eyelid, called a ‘nictitating membrane,’ which is transparent and helps protect the eye during swimming, like a pair of goggles.” A final cool fact about these birds is that they abandon their nest after 24 hours. They need water, so the birds have to flutter down from their nest and walk until they find some.
Ospreys for one thing have a huge wingspan--up to six feet! That's taller than a lot of people are. The other mind-boggling thing about ospreys is that they love to collect things. In the past, all kinds of small items have been found in ospreys’ nests, from hula hoops to boots. Also, like the Canada goose, ospreys have many sounds for various things. Ospreys are most famous for eating fish though. Their diet consists almost entirely of fish. In addition, they also have good memory; often they migrate to the exact same places every year. They even sometimes come back to the exact same nest! It’s incredible that they have such a good memory and sense of direction.
Red-tailed hawks are pretty unique birds. For one thing, they eat other birds sometimes,
which sort of makes them cannibals, as they are eating other birds. Another unusual thing about them is how they mate and reproduce. Before they breed, the males and females do a very dramatic and fancy aerial display. After that, they build huge nests, which are 29-38 inches, or about 2-3 feet, in diameter and up to 3 feet tall! That’s ridiculously big. Another cool fact about them is that the cry of the red-tailed hawk was often used in old western movies.
By far the most impressive of the birds from Maryland, the peregrine falcon is the fastest reported bird in the world, going up to speeds of 238 mph when stooping! That’s significantly faster than most cars go. They are also large birds that prey primarily on smaller birds. They are certainly record-breakers, though besides their incredibly fast flying, they aren’t known for much else.
Woodcock’s eating habits are the biggest feature that sets them apart. They can eat 90% of their body weight in a 24-hour period! Think about that - if you’re 100 pounds, that means eating 90 pounds of food in 24 hours, which is an insane amount. Also, the Woodcock eats a ridiculous amount of bugs; mostly earthworms, but also grasshoppers, beetles, and more. How cool is that?
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are small yet beautiful birds. They feed on nectar and small insects. They flap their wings at an astounding rate of 53 times a second! That’s equal to 3,180 flaps per minute, which means that if they kept flapping for 24 hours straight, it would total around 4,579,200 flaps!
The American crow is the largest crow in all of North America. They also have one other very individualistic attribute; they are known for being mischievous! They sometimes follow other animals and steal their food, raid garbage cans, and according to dnr.maryland.gov, they were seen once purposefully distracting a river otter so that they could rob them of their food. They’re kind of bossy and mean birds.
Mockingbirds are famous for imitating sounds - that’s why they’re called mockingbirds! They can sing many songs, and they also sometimes attempt to replicate sounds they hear, like insects, other birds, and squeaky hinges. The northern mockingbird is the only species of mockingbird in Maryland though.
Cedar waxwings are pretty birds that also have some interesting behaviors. For one thing, they have been seen before getting "drunk" on fruit that is overripe, which causes them to fly weirdly. They also eat a lot - sometimes they eat so much they have trouble flying afterwards.
That’s it for my top 10 list!
There are so many fascinating animals out there in the world - far too many for me to describe in detail. These are, in my opinion, the most interesting and unique local birds from Maryland. I hope you enjoyed learning about these birds - they were fun for me to research - and I hope you’ll think of this article the next time you look outside and see a little bird flying around.