Bird Neck Appreciation Day

"Sure is One Peculiar Way to Run a Ballgame" by (the great) Kenneth Patchen (Click the image for more of Patchen's picture poems)

[Bird Neck Appreciation Day is part of Scientia Pro Publica #30, a weekly magazine of on-line science writing, and I and the Bird #125, a bi-weekly magazine of blog posts about birds.]

Birds, my friends, are strange beings. No stranger than humans, of course. But then that’s not saying much, is it?

For one thing, birds are natural-born contortionists.

Sure, humans can be contortionists, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

And we still can’t bend our necks like this goose can.

In the carny world of old, natural freaks – limbless wonders, pinheads, midgets and bearded ladies – held top status, followed by made freaks, like tattooed people and thin men. At the bottom were the working freaks – human blockheads, sword swallowers and so on. Human contortionists would fall into the working freak category.

Not so, birds. They’re natural freaks.

It’s their extra cervical vertebrae that give birds their neck-twisting super powers.

Birds have between 13 and 25 cervical vertebrae. That’s a lot of neck bones. Humans, like all mammals, have only seven.

Even giraffes achieve their extraordinary neck flexibility with only seven vertebrae. (But what vertebrae! Giraffe neck vertebrae can be 10 inches long, massive heavy hunks of bone joined together by ball-and-socket joints similar to human shoulders and hips.)

While the mammalian seven may seem paltry compared to the double digits of bird necks, it sure beats amphibians. With only one cervical vertebra – one!– does this bullfrog even have a neck?

Bird vertebrae rise higher and higher, each more delicate than the last, to create necks that are engineering marvels of lightweight flexibility.

Try this in the sideshow.

Don’t forget this move

And for the finale:

Yes, bird bodies are pretty much one unbending chunk. But we’re not talking about bird bodies today. Today is neck appreciation day.

Beat those.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, Birds, In the City, May, Wildlife/Natural History

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17 Comments on “Bird Neck Appreciation Day”

  1. […] How still it holds itself and how extraordinarily flexible is its neck. We humans have seven cervical vertebrae while an egret has, count them. eighteen. For more on bird necks, including photos of bird contortionists and a brief anatomy lesson, see Bird Neck Appreciation Day. […]

  2. Lara Says:

    such a fun post! birds are indeed amazing!

  3. egwow Says:

    It would be so cool to be that flexible! Very interesting!

  4. tony g Says:

    thanks for the visit! great post on bird necks . . . i’ll be talking with kids next week about birds and you can bet some of your wisdom will be included . . .

  5. Melissa Says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments and for visiting.

  6. Dave Q, UK Says:

    Interesting post and I like the funny side of it.

  7. Ebie Says:

    Their bodies are just so soft and flexible. Great photos and presentation!

  8. eileeninmd Says:

    Great post, I enjoyed the humour. The photos are all wonderful too. I thought of my achhing neck while I am looking up at the treetops to see some birds.

  9. Rajesh Says:

    Fantastic post with great level of details.

  10. hip chick Says:

    funny post. they may have better necks…but what’s really better is that they can fly!

  11. What a cool blog you have here! I love all these bird pictures and appreciate the time it takes to get these perfect illustrations.

    And your previous post — talk about visiting a place vicariously. Y’know, we have been to the big city, but we’ll never see it and know it like you do. Thanks for sharing. (I love the comparison shots of the goslings and the kids heading home. Too cute.

  12. Greenearth Says:

    Wish my neck could be as flexible.

  13. mthew Says:

    I love a good neck.

  14. daddy0 Says:

    Beyond wow I am speechless.

  15. Charlotte Says:

    You have so much good material to work with, all those natural freaks in yr own neighborhood, no wonder a day for appreciation is called for. Hear hear!

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Técnica Seybaplaya, Out walking the dog. Out walking the dog said: Bird Neck Appreciation Day: […]

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