Day 43 of 100 days of Blogging

When we see a bird and notice its tail, likely we note its length,shape or markings. This can of course be helpful to identify a species. However, the tail is a remarkably designed instrument that performs a number of vital flight functions! So next time you happen to look at a bird’s tail, don’t just think about its form, take a moment to marvel at its function! 

10 Bird Tail Facts 

#1. A bird’s tail feathers are collectively called the retrices. The word retrice is derived from latin and means “helmsman”.

#2. Like an aircraft (or boat) rudder, the tail helps with steering left to right. In flight a bird can twist its tail to shift direction. 

#3. A tail augments the wings’ lift function.Raising or lowering its tail helps the bird rise or descend.

#4. Birds also use their tails to help with balance when perched.

#5.  The tail serves as an airbrake to help a bird slow down on landing. 

#6. Raptors and vultures can sustain their lift while circling in thermals by fanning the tail out; the larger surface area produces greater lift.

#7. Woodpeckers have stiff tail feathers which they use to help prop themselves against a tree trunk when foraging.

#8. Several types of birds typically move their tails up and down when excited. 

#9. Tail shape can be a useful identification tool. Basic tail shapes can be pointed, rounded, squared, fan-shaped and forked.

#10. A tail is considered to be short if it is shorter than the body length, and long for the opposite case.