When you see on a map how small Alderney is you wouldn't imagine how diverse it is at the same time! Here the landscape is so different: we have tall cliffs and rocky islets, grasslands, scrubland, little forests and valleys, hills, wetlands and of course gardens and a little town. This diversity gives wildlife lots of different places to live in and lots of different food to feed on, in a way that every species is adapted to breed and grow in a specific place and to feed on a specific food. Birds in particular are a good example of how amazingly wildlife has adapted to its environment. You may wonder why some birds like Stonechats and Robins have very slim and pointed beaks whereas Chaffinches have strong, big beaks. Slim beaks are needed to catch tiny insects flying around or hidden in the grass and strong beaks are used to crack hard plant seeds. Shags and cormorants breeding on Burhou have long, saw-shaped bills to catch fish firmly during diving.
Different types of wings have evolved to suit different types of flight. A good example of this is the differences found among raptors (also called birds of prey). On the one hand, Sparrowhawks have adapted to live inside forests and woodlands, so they have broad wings and a long tail to manoeuvre and avoid trees quickly while chasing their prey. On the other hand, Peregrine Falcons are open land predators that breed on Alderney’s cliffs and whose wings are narrow and pointed-ended to fly very fast. Did you know that Peregrine Falcons are the fastest animals in the world, reaching up to 200 mph?
Despite that birds are known for their ability to fly, their feet are also well adapted. Swifts and swallows have tiny legs because they are rarely on the ground. Indeed, Swifts’ legs are so short and their wings are so long that they can’t take off once they have landed. By comparison, herons have long legs so they can stand inside the water in ponds and rivers and wait for fishes and frogs swimming around them.
Do you know what a sparrow eats?
Do you expect weak and small legs on a bird that runs all the time and rarely fly?
Robert - Conservation Officer