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The different bills’shapes - Page 4

Show me your bill, I will know what you eat!


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One again, nature did things well! Each bird to its own tool!



Patrick Ingremeau

Bob Moul
Nature Photography

Callie de Wet

Tom Grey
Tom Grey's Bird Pictures

Marc Chrétien

Maxime Dechelle

Text and other pictures by Nicole Bouglouan


L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins -  BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607


See the article: Description of the bird and its plumage

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We continue this study with very different bills, the thin bills of birds feeding on nectar from flowers.

Hummingbirds, hermits, sunbirds, honeyeaters and other similar species have peculiar and very well adapted bill, allowing them to reach deep in the flower the nectar which give them their energy for the day.

Amethyst Sunbird

Chalcomitra amethystina

Anna's Hummingbird

Calypte anna

Some hummingbirds have straight, thin, medium-sized or long bill, whereas sunbirds have robust, down-curved bill, making easier to take the nectar.

Hermits have fairly long, down-curved bill allowing them to reach the nectar in larger flowers.

Long-tailed Hermit

Phaethornis superciliosis

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Entomyzon cyanotis

Honeyeaters have strong, pointed bill, slightly down-curved. These birds feed on nectar too, but also on insects and primarily fruits. They are considered as pest for orchards. 

The woodpeckers have strong, chisel-shaped bill.
They use the bill to excavate the nesting cavity into the wood of the tree trunks. They feed on wood-boring insects, using their long sticky tongue to reach them into the wood and bark crevices.
The bill is also used for the drumming frequently heard in the forests.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

Piculets also excavate their nest into the softer parts of the wood, in spite of their smaller bills. 

Golden-spangled Piculet

Picumnus exilis

White-barred Piculet

Picumnus cirratus

Hoopoe has long, down-curved bill, used to find and extract insects, larvae and pupae from the ground with short jabs of the bill.
Sometimes, the bird stops and inserts the bill into the soil in order to seize the items sensed with the tip. It also may dig strongly when pursuing a prey into its burrow.

African Hoopoe

Upupa africana


Upupa epops

The kingfishers that dive for food have strong, straight, dagger-like bill.
Most of species have laterally compressed bill, and fairly long for the body’s size.
These birds dig burrows in sandy banks and shores for nesting. They catch the small fish with their powerful bill.

Giant Kingfisher

Megaceryle maxima

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Chloroceryle aenea

On the other hand, the species which feed on the ground, taking more terrestrial than aquatic preys, have shorter, heavier and broader bill. They also dig for the nesting cavity, but more often arranging old cavities in trees, or digging into nest of arboreal termites with their strong bill.     

Forest Kingfisher

Todiramphus macleayii

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Dacelo leachii