The beaks or bills of birds tell us a lot about what a bird eats and how it acquires its food.
The hooked bills of raptors are used to tear up the flesh of small mammals, reptiles and other birds, into bite-size pieces.
The slightly down-curved bills of honeyeaters are adapted to probe inside flowers that make sugar-rich nectar, which they rapidly mop up with a ‘brush’ on their tongues. (Many Australian plants evolved red or orange flowers to attract birds to pollinate them, whereas yellow flowers tend to attract bees.)
The long straight bills of egrets and herons are adapted to spear fish and tadpoles, while the long curved bills of ibises and several shorebird species are often used to probe mud for worms and shellfish.
The spoon-shaped tip of the spoonbill’s beak can “feel” tiny aquatic insects as they “sweep” the mud while wading slowly.
Text © Richard Noske 2019 CC BY-NC-SA