We are accustomed to seeing animals sporting tails they rarely use (save for cats that keep chasing their tails and a few other animals that use the tail to swat away flies and other parasites). But what purpose would a bird’s tail serve apart from helping it fly? Here are some points that could surprise you!
The tail acts like a rudder that helps the bird control direction while flying. The tail also enables the bird to cruise at very high altitudes with minimum interference. And if that is not enough, the tail enables the bird to lift off effectively from a stationary position, and gives the body a boost to lift up.
Some birds have little or no use for their tail feathers. These birds mostly use their tails for another important purpose, impressing prospective partners. Most of these birds would have unique and very creative patterns on their tails, and would display the same to impress other compatible birds during spring for the purpose of starting a family.
The tail feathers of a bird would contain very unique patterns which would mostly be specific to that particulars species of birds. Therefore, the tail feathers would enable a bird to identify and attract compatible partners (during mating season), and would also enable it to identify its coterie among others.
In addition to impressing a prospective partner with its tail feather display, the Wilson’s snipe male goes one step further and uses its tail to produce a whistle like sound as it flies and dances in front of its partner. A wonderful example of how a bird’s tail can be used to create sounds!
Support and Stability
In certain cases, a bird would use its tail as a support to hang against plants and tree trunks. For instance, the woodpecker uses its tail like a tripod along with its legs and uses this support to hang freely against a tree trunk as it hammers the bark and forages for food.