What Causes Birds Beaks to be Different?

Bird's beaks come in all shapes and sizes but, why is that? Let's explore why there is variation and take a look at some of the most interesting beaks.

Recently, I was asked why there is so much variation in the size and shape or different bird species beaks. While answering the question, I realized that this topic would be perfect to write about here on the blog!

So, why is it that there is so much variation? Let’s answer that questions by thinking about what a beak is used for. The main use of a beak is for feeding. Since beaks are mainly used for feeding, the variation in beak shape and size mostly has to do with the food that each species prefers.

Some beaks are made for digging seeds out of shells while others are designed to dig deep into the ground to pull out prey items. Let’s explore some of the most interesting beaks!

What Causes Birds Beaks to be Different?©Rob Ripma
The Roseate Spoonbill’s name tells you all you need to know about the shape of this beak! The large “spoon” on the end is used to strain small food out of the water.
What Causes Birds Beaks to be Different?©Rob Ripma
©Rob Ripma Crossbills, like this White-winged, have very strange beaks. The upper and lower parts of the beak actually cross over each other! This allows the crossbills to get into pine cones that other species are unable to feed on.
What Causes Birds Beaks to be Different?©Rob Ripma
©Rob Ripma American Avocets have a very unusual upturned beak. They use this to swipe back and forth under the water to stir up the small invertebrates they eat.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.