Some time ago I was approached by a BBC producer who assumed I would know all the facts about birds – what was the world`s biggest and smallest, which bird lays the biggest egg, etc. etc. Well, like most of you I knew some answers and not others. Such facts are out there and, as I come across websites that usefully record such facts I will include a link below. If you know of any please let the Fatbirder know.

Incidentally, so far as I know the world’s biggest bird living today is the Ostrich [although Moa’s which were extirpated within historical times were very much bigger] and the smallest, which may be the smallest ever, is the Bee Hummingbird. The biggest flyer – in terms of wingspan is probably the Condor and the heaviest the Great Bustard. The most long-lived is the Manx Shearwater and the bird which flies the furthest is probably the Arctic Tern which, in a two year period, goes from pole to pole. Mind you, the Wandering Albatross regularly flies hundreds of kilomters just getting food for its youngster.

If you have any other superlatives [or corrections to mine] please let me know!

I get asked an awful lot of questions – not all of which can I answer but I make it my business to find out. For example I was asked by a German teacher a question her class had asked her – why are birds dropping predominently white? So, for anyone else like me who didn’t know:All animals face problems with excretion and the build-up of toxins in the blood from protein synthesis and digestion. In freshwater dwelling amphibians and most fish the easiest solution is to excrete highly toxic ammonia directly into the water as it is produced. On land however, water supplies are limited and both reptiles and birds convert the ammonia to much less toxic, insoluble uric acid… the white stuff. In mammals I don’t think this option evolved and they require some water to eliminate their ammonia in the form of urea. In bird droppings the white stuff is the equivalent of urine and the dark stuff is the equivalent of faeces. It’s also why raptors, owls and seabirds produce spectacular amounts of ‘whitewash’ because their diets contain large amounts of protein that need to be deaminated (have the amino groups removed from their structure) so that they can be used in cell respiration the way carbohydrates can – put simply – the white is uric acid crystals – the solidified excretions from the kidneys.

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