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PITTSBURGH – Class Aves must be one of the most diverse classes of the animal kingdom with thousands of different species.  Each of those species having their own specific characteristics and adaptations to enable them to survive in their habitat.  The National Aviary in Pittsburgh provides 150+ different species of unique birds along with 4 individually controlled habitats: Clouds Forest, Grasslands, Tropical Rainforest and Wetlands.  These different habitats allow the National Aviary to house and provide for a radically diverse population of bird species.

While visiting the aviary on a field trip for the Tweetspeak cluster, my fellow Tweetspeak correspondents and I were given the task to observe two species and differentiate the two.  My species choices were the Hadada Ibis and the Snowy Egret of the Wetlands ecosystem.  The Hadada Ibis is a dark brown color with distinct green plumage on its wings and a red patch on its long, curved bill.  The Snowy Egret is an abundantly white bird with a long, straight bill and longer legs for wading.  These species differ tremendously in appearance, but share more commonalities than I initially anticipated.

The Hadada Ibis is not native to North America it is from Africa, mainly concentrated around the equator and the coast of southeast Africa, according to the IUCN Red list.  This caught my attention because of the fact that the Audubon lists that the Snowy Egret is a native species of North and Central America.  Although the Ibis and the Egret are from different continents, they share the same habitat.  They both concentrate in wooded streams, marshes, near ponds and shores.  With sharing a similar habitat comes having to share their meals as well.  The Ibis and the Egret are carnivorous birds which explains the shape and structure of their bills.

They are commonly attracted to:

  • Insects
  • Small reptiles
  • Fish
  • Crabs
  • Crayfish

The Ibis’ skinny, curved bill enables it to hunt insects more easily than that of the straight, thicker bill of the Egret which is meant for hunting and eating fish and small reptiles.

While I was observing, these birds acting in their natural environment I could see the difference in their behavior.  I watched as the Ibis spent its time walking on land and on the crosswalk.  This made sense to me after doing research and finding that the Ibis is regularly found near human populated areas.  On the other side was the Egret mostly wading in the water and staying on the shore near the water.  This was interesting to see how these two birds who share the same ecosystem use that ecosystem in vastly different ways.

I found this trip fascinating and significantly helpful in terms of being able to witness firsthand the birds and their behavior.  Being able to walk through their habitat and witness how they live made it easier for me to understand the research I did after the trip.  Learning that two birds can be so similar and different simultaneously was the highlight of my experience.

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