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Flightless birds evolved from birds that could fly. Many flightless birds evolved on islands that had few predators from which the birds needed to escape. Others use fast swimming or running as an alternative to flying. Some flightless birds (like the ostrich) have developed effective defenses, like big toe claws.
Some differences between flightless birds and flying birds:
|Feature||Flying Birds||Flightless Birds|
|Wings||Longer wings||Shorter wings|
|Cross-section Shape of Feathers||Asymmetrical feathers||Symmetrical feathers|
|Number of Feathers||Fewer feathers|
(large feathers only grow in feather tracks, to keep the weight down)
(growing all over the body)
(the bone that anchors the muscles that move a bird's wings)
|Well-developed keel||Greatly reduced keel|
|Breastbone||Rounded breastbone||Flat breastbone|
A huge, flightless bird from Australia with a helmet-like crest on its head.
Common Rhea or Nandu
The Common Rhea or Nandu is a large, flightless bird from South America.
The dodo is an extinct, flightless bird that lived on an island in the Indian Ocean near Africa.
The largest bird that ever lived. This flightless bird is extinct, but it lived in New Zealand until the early 1800's.
The largest penguin; it lives on ice packs in Antarctica.
The emu is a large, flightless Australian bird.
A small penguin from off the coast of southern Africa.
A large, flightless, nocturnal, solitary parrot from New Zealand.
A chicken-sized insectivore from New Zealand; the smallest ratite.
A huge, extinct, flightless bird from New Zealand.
The ostrich is the largest bird. It can't fly, but it is a fast runner.
Penguins are birds that swim very well but cannot fly.
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