What Does a Bird's Beak Tell You About Its Diet? Print Friendly and PDF

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Type of Feet
Type of Beak
Probable Diet
Probable Habitat
Flamingo shrimp


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


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




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.

You can also use this Google Slides document which shows photos of these birds and video clips.

google doc

Other Resources on Birds

Amniote Egg Coloring

Animal Reproduction and the Egg – Guided Learning