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Birds (class Aves) are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, a beak with no

teeth, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a lightweight
but strong skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to
the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the class of tetrapods with the most living species, at
approximately ten thousand, with more than half of these being passerines, sometimes known as
perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds.
Scientific consensus is that birds are the last surviving lineage of dinosaurs, having evolved from
feathered dinosaur ancestors within the theropod group of saurischian dinosaurs. The fossil record
indicates that true birds first appeared during the Cretaceous period, around 100 million years ago.[3]
However, primitive bird-like "stem-birds" that lie outside class Aves proper, in the group Avialae, have
been found dating back to the mid-Jurassic period.[1] Many of these early stem-birds, such as
Archaeopteryx, were not yet capable of fully powered flight, and many retained primitive
characteristics like toothy jaws in place of beaks and long bony tails.[1][4]
Birds have more or less developed wings; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa
and elephant birds. Bird wings, which evolved from forelimbs, enabled birds the ability of bird flight.
The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight, although further
speciation has led to some flightless birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island
species of birds. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly the aforementioned flightless
penguins, and also members of the duck family, have also evolved for swimming. Birds, specifically
Darwin's finches, played an important part in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural
selection.
Some birds, especially corvids and parrots, are among the most intelligent animals; several bird species
make and use tools, and many social species pass on knowledge across generations, which is
considered a form of culture. Many species annually migrate great distances. Birds are social,
communicating with visual signals, calls, and bird songs, and participating in such social behaviours as
cooperative breeding and hunting, flocking, and mobbing of predators. The vast majority of bird
species are socially monogamous, usually for one breeding season at a time, sometimes for years, but
rarely for life. Other species have polygynous ("many females") or, rarely, polyandrous ("many males")
breeding systems. Birds produce offspring by laying eggs which are fertilized through sexual
reproduction. They are usually laid in a nest and incubated by the parents. Most birds have an extended
period of parental care after hatching. Some birds, such as hens, lay eggs even when not fertilized,
though unfertilized eggs do not produce offspring.
Many species of birds are economically important. Domesticated and undomesticated birds (poultry
and game) are important sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Songbirds, parrots, and other species are
popular as pets. Guano (bird excrement) is harvested for use as a fertilizer. Birds prominently figure
throughout human culture. About 120130 species have become extinct due to human activity since the
17th century, and hundreds more before then. Human activity threatens about 1,200 bird species with
extinction, though efforts are underway to protect them. Recreational birdwatching is an important part
of the ecotourism industry.