Student Research Page

cover_birdlips.jpgBird Lips!?

Open wide! Your teeth are your friends -- how could you eat without them? What about wildlife? Some have teeth, some have bills. How their mouths are shaped helps determine what they can eat.

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Bird Lips!?


Do birds have teeth and lips? No, but look at the many shapes of their bills! The shape of the bill helps them eat. What birds have bills like a nutcracker? How does it help them eat?

Pileated woodpecker A Woodpecker’s bill can chisel into trees in search of sap and small bugs. This is a Pileated woodpecker.
 acorn_woodpecker_kelly_bryan_tpwd.jpg The Acorn Woodpecker of West Texas will actually pound acorns into trees to eat later! Almost 50,000 acorns were found embedded in a single tree!
 Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) The Cardinal’s bill is thick and cone-shaped, and as strong as a nutcracker. It’s perfect for sunflower seeds.
Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) The cardinal’s cousin, the painted bunting, has a similar bill. Both cardinals and buntings forage on the ground and in shrubs for a tasty meal of berries, bugs and large seeds.
Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) See the narrow, tweezers-like bill on this Warbler? It can easily hold tiny seeds, small bugs and berries. It often feeds in low trees and shrubs.
Great Blue Heron Perhaps you’ve seen the Great Blue Heron at the water’s edge. Its sharp bill has serrated edges and a hooked point to spear and grab fish and frogs. It may grab a fish sideways, then use its long bill to toss fish  in the right direction to slip down its throat.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis) The Hummingbird's long, thin bill acts like a straw to probe deep into flowers and sip nectar.
Male Mallard
Dabbling ducks like this mallard have bills with comb-like edges that act like strainers, separating plants, mollusks and insects from the water.
This skimmer flies low over the water with its bill open. Its longer, lower jaw slices through the water in search of fish.
Roseate Spoonbill
One of the most distinctive bills belongs to the Roseate Spoonbill. It swishes its spatula-like bill back and forth in the water to find food. The sensitive tip of its bill will snap shut when it feels prey.
Brown Pelican

Pelicans have great scooping bills and can carry three gallons of small fish in their pouches!
Brown Pelican eating fish

Birds’ bills are marvelous tools made especially for the food they eat. The next time you see a bird, look at the shape of its bill and see if you can guess what’s for dinner!

Take a fun quiz! Click on this picture to see if you can guess birds by their bills.bills_cardinal_bunting_quiz.gif


Can you match the skulls of these predators with their picture? How do their teeth or bills and the location of their eyes help them as predators?



Be a Nature Sleuth!


Print out directions for Nature Sleuth and get exploring! Learn about animals near you in our Learn About Texas pages. See if you can guess what they eat by looking at their mouths.

Keeping It Wild!

Make a Birdfeeder for Thanksgiving.

Learn More

Learn About Texas Birds
Young Naturalists: Animal Speeds

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