The Birds and the Beaks
Video Segments: Extraordinary Birds

These brief video segments can be used alone or in combination, to introduce a topic or to spark discussion among your students. The video segments can be adapted for any grade level – suggested focus questions are provided. Stream the video segments from the playlist below, or scroll to the bottom of the page to find downloadable QuickTime versions of the videos. These videos are also used in the lesson plan The Birds and The Beaks (grades 9-12).

As hummingbirds and other bird species evolved over time, they developed a variety of traits and skills beneficial to both the birds themselves and to the continuation of their species. The vast array of hummingbird species is an example of the result of these evolutionary processes. Certain birds have developed beaks allowing them to feed at particular flowers, others have cultivated brightly colored plumage, and yet others are known for the exceptional skills at navigation. Many highly skilled bird behaviors are innate – certain bird species are born with these abilities, as is the case of the homing pigeon’s innate homing ability. Scientists often do not know how these skills have been acquired in the population, except to note that these traits became advantageous for the birds as their populations evolved in their respective environments.

The segments from the NATURE episode “Extraordinary Birds” show examples of the adaptations of different birds to their varying environments.

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Suggested Focus Questions:

Clip 1: A Variety of Hummingbirds

  1. Describe two types of hummingbirds with beaks adapted to specific flowers.
  2. What makes hummingbird flight different from the flight of other birds?
  3. Why do you think the different colors of hummingbirds present an advantage to the birds? Why might this trait have developed in hummingbirds?

Clip 2: Little Brain, Big Journey

  1. How long is the Rufous hummingbird’s migration route?
  2. Describe the path of the Rufous hummingbird’s migration.
  3. How does the Rufous hummingbird vary its migratory path? How does it know to do so?

Clip 3: The Pigeon Express

  1. What service do the pigeons provide for Rocky Mountain Adventures?
  2. How were these pigeons trained for their jobs?
  3. Based on the information in the clip, what do you think gives pigeons their innate homing ability?

Clip 4: Birds of Kundha Kulam

  1. When do the flocks usually appear in Kundha Kulam?
  2. What is associated with the birds’ appearance and the rainy season?
  3. Are the birds actually “bringing the rain”? Why might the birds’ appearance in Kundha Kulam coincide with the rainy season?

Downloadable QuickTime versions of the video segments:
(Note: To download a video, right-click on the video title and click “Save Link As…” or “Save Target As…”. On a Mac, press the CTRL key and simultaneously click the mouse, then save the link.)

Clip 1, “A Variety of Hummingbirds”

Clip 2, “Little Brain, Big Journey”

Clip 3, “The Pigeon Express”

Clip 4, “Birds of Kundha Kulam”

  • Anna

    this video is great!:)

  • rheinrich

    Loved it, loved it, loved it!!!!

  • bill miller

    During a birding trip last march 2008 we encountered a crew in South East Arizona filming hummingbirds. They said, it would be aired on PBS. Do you have any info on this.

  • Gio

    it was amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    they should make more

  • carli

    they are beautiiful creatures , i see them everytime i go to grandmas .
    they sore through the sky , like i wish i wish could !♥(:

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