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.)


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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

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More brilliant beaks

from Australia and other places

Pied Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta at Marievale Nature Reserve, Gauteng, South Africa
Tickell's Brown Hornbill (Anorrhinus tickelli). Kaeng Krachan, Thailand. The Red-Data status on this
The White Bellied Woodpecker  Dryocopus javensis hodgsonii from Mudhumalai Wild Life Sanctuary, Tami
Ruddy kingfisher at Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand
Puffin (Fratercula arctica) at Látrabjarg, Iceland.
Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) at Jungle Island of Miami, Florida
Great frigatebird (Fregata minor) male; Genovesa Island (El Barranco), Galapagos Islands.
Kea working on car antenna - New Zealand
Handsome Sunbird, endemic to the Philippines
Wild Laughing Kookaburra with a frog in its beak at St Ives Village Green, suburban Sydney, Australi
Beak of Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) in Lake Yamanaka, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan.
Wilson's Snipe perched on a fencepost near Wales, Central Utah.
Blue-chinned sapphire (Chlorestes notata notata) male, Trinidad
Australian White Ibis juvenile head and neck at Victoria Park, Sydney.
Sandhill Crane at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Florida
Picture showing a Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) beak.
Male House Sparrow
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos ) (bird) in Morro Bay, CA, Embarcadero Tidelands P
The head of a Common Loon (''gavia immer'').
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster, Ariège, France. The female (in front) awaits the offering which
Shoebill, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore