Reading Passage #02: "Birds that feed in flocks...": Simplified

This page was written by Erin Billy.


Many of my students like to see a simplified version of the passage to help them understand the parts of the reading that they cannot understand.

I have looked at the passage and "translated" it into simpler English.

The sentences in red are the "super simple" versions of the passage.

The sentences in regular text are the "simplified" versions of the text.

Simplified Passage


TOEFL English


First Paragraph
1st stc In birds, there is a relationship between eating habits and sleeping habits.

Birds that eat together often sleep together.

2nd stc Sleeping together has many benefits for birds.

There are many reasons for birds to sleep together, even if we cannot see these reasons easily.

3rd stc Birds can stay warm and save food in the winter if they sleep together.

In the wintertime, when it is cold and there are not many plants growing, it is even more important for birds to stay warm and try to save the food that they have stored for the winter.

4th stc Birds that do not sleep with other birds will find other ways to stay warm.

One way to stay warm and save food is to find a place to sleep that is protected from the cold weather.

5th stc Here are four examples of how birds can keep warm.

For example, birds that have to sleep alone will try to find some plants that are growing close together and sleep "inside" these plants. Another type of bird, the horned lark, will dig a hole in the ground to stay warm. Another bird, the ptarmigan, will dig a hole in the snow to stay warm. However, even though these birds can stay warm by doing these things, other birds are able to stay even warmer  by staying together in groups. Several types of birds do this. For example, wrens, swifts, brown creepers, bluebirds, and anis are types of birds that stay together at night in order to stay warm.

6th stc Skin contact helps birds stay warm.

One reason that birds are able to stay warmer when they stay together is that when their skin touches, less heat is lost to the colder air around them.

7th stc Here are some facts about staying warm with skin contact.

For example, research has shown that one type of bird, the kinglet, can reduce heat loss by 25% if two of them are together, and they can reduce heat loss by 33% if three of them are together.

Second Paragraph
1st stc Staying together has more benefits--birds can share information.

There is another benefit to staying together--if all the birds stay together, they can give one another more information.

2nd stc For example, birds look for food every day.

For example, groups of birds leave their nests during the day to look for food.

3rd stc Some birds are not lucky and do not find food.

When these birds come back at night, some of them have found food to eat, but others have not.

4th stc The next day, after looking for food, the birds tend to follow the "lucky" birds (the ones that found food).

Scientists have seen that, on the next day, when the birds have to leave again to find food, the birds that did not find enough food on the previous day tend to follow the birds that did find food on the previous day.

5th stc We can see more evidence of the relationship between eating and staying together in two other types of birds that are similar.

There are two other types of birds that are related, the common kestrel and the lesser kestrel. These two types of birds are related, but they have different nesting habits and different eating habits.

6th stc One type of bird hunts animals, the other type of bird looks for insects.

One of these birds, the common kestrel, tends to hunt vertebrate animals (animals that have spines) in a small area that they are familiar with. The lesser kestrel, on the other hand, hunts for insects over a wide area.

7th stc The first type of bird hunts alone and sleeps alone; the second type hunts together and sleeps together.

The first bird (the one that likes to hunt animals), the common kestrel, sleeps alone and hunts alone. In contrast, the lesser kestrel sleeps and hunts together with other birds. Some people think that the lesser kestrel hunts with other birds so that it can learn from the other birds where the insects are.

Third Paragraph
1st stc Finally, sleeping together helps protect the birds.

The last reason that birds stay together is that some birds that are not sleeping can send a signal to the other birds if they are attacked.

2nd stc However, in some ways, sleeping together can be more dangerous.

However, even though staying together gives the birds this extra benefit, there are some disadvantages to staying together. For example, if a predator (hunter) sees so many birds together in one place, it will be more likely to attack them. Furthermore, birds that stay together on the ground are more easily attacked than are birds that sleep in trees.

3rd stc Even birds in trees can be attacked.

However, even birds that sleep in trees can be attacked by other predatory birds.

4th stc Finally, birds at the edges of the group can be attacked more easily.

Finally, the birds that are at the edges of the group (not at the center) are more vulnerable to attack than are the birds at the center since they are the first ones that predators will find.