The beak of a bird has a variety of purposes. Feeding is the most important function of the bill and it is shaped according to what a bird eats. This external structure is also used for killing prey, courtship behavior, grooming, fighting, feeding young, manipulating objects and many other actions. The size, shape and color of bird beaks vary greatly and can tell us much about their habitat and lifestyle.
What is most distinctive about a Roseate Spoonbill is its long spatulate bill. These pink blushed birds lower their partially open spoon-like beaks into shallow waters and sweep it back and forth. Once small fish and crustaceans are detected, the bird clamps down on its prey.
Great Blue Heron
Herons have long, thick bills adapted for foraging. They stab their spear-like beaks at fish, frogs and shellfish. Once the prey is captured, the heron lifts the creature out of the water and swallows.
These diminutive birds use their thin, downward curved bills to probe for insects and spiders found in and under tree bark.
Most warblers have slender, pointed beaks. They use their thin bills to glean insects off of leaves, bark and twigs.
Tyrant Flycatchers snatch insects while in flight. Their beaks are flat and wide at the base. Flycatchers have spring-like ligaments that help snap their jaws shut when an insect is captured.
Hummingbirds have long, fine, tubular bills which they use to probe into flowers. These tiny birds lap up the nectar with their tongues. They also rely on insects for sustenance. When feeding on bugs, they will often snare the insect at the base of its widened beak rather than the tip. This allows for an easier, shorter path to the throat.
The edges of many ducks bills are flat and fringed so they can strain seeds, plants and aquatic insects from the water. The edges can also be soft, filled with touch receptors to aid in locating food.
Ibises seek food by wading slowly in shallow water, sweeping their heads from side to side and probing the bottom soil with their curved bills. These stunning birds forage in mud and on grass as well, finding food by touch, sight and rooting. Their diet consists of crustaceans, fish, frogs, insects and various water creatures.
Woodpeckers have strong, chisel-like bills which taper to the tip. They use their beaks like a drill to excavate holes into trees for food or bore cavities for nests.
Birds of prey have sharp, hooked beaks used to hold and tear into the flesh of prey. They rip the food into pieces small enough to swallow.
Finches, Northern Cardinals and grosbeaks have short, stout, conical beaks used for cracking seeds.
Black Skimmers have a most unusual beak. It's lower mandible is quite larger then its upper jaw. This assists the bird in its manner of feeding. When searching for prey, skimmers fly inches above the water slicing their lower bills just below the surface. When a fish is located, the skimmer scoops the fish up, tilts its head and ingests the fish while flying.
Posted by Julie Gidwitz