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Biology LibreTexts

What Does a Bird's Beak Tell You About Its Diet?

  • Page ID
    20345
  • Birds.png

    Bird Type of Feet Type of Beak Probable Diet Probable Habitat
    Chicken
    Duck
    Eagle
    Sparrow
    Flamingo
    Heron
    Kingfisher
    Owl
    Pelican
    Hummingbird
    Woodpecker

    Beaks

    Short and thick - seed cracking
    Long and thin, slightly curved - eating nectar
    Strong, chisel like - drilling
    Sharp, curved and pointed - tearing flesh
    Long and flattened - straining algae and plants
    Spear shaped - spearing fish

    Feet

    3 toes in front, 1 behind - perching
    2 toes in front, 2 behind - climbing
    Powerful curved talons - grasping prey
    Webbed - swimming
    Long and thin - wading
    Thick and stout - running

    Analysis

    1. What features of a hummingbird make it adapted for its style of feeding?
    2. Imagine an ideal flying predator. What type of beak and feet would it have?
    3. Different birds may have similar beaks and diets. Loons, herons, and kingfishers, for instance, all have long sharp pointed beaks for spearing fish. Their feet, however, are quite different. Describe how the loon, heron, and kingfisher differ in the method by which they hunt for fish (using their feet to help you answer.)
    4. Owls have large eyes that enable it to see well at night. Both the hawk and the owl hunt similar things: small rodents or snakes. How do the hawk and the owl avoid competing with each other?
    5. In the two previous questions, you were asked to analyze how birds reduce competition with each other when they hunt similar prey and live in similar habitats. This idea among ecologists is known as the "Competitive Exclusion Principle" which suggests the no two species can occupy the same niche. Use your book other other resources to define the word: niche and provide examples from this activity of a bird's niche.