The first thing you might notice about birds are their feathers or perhaps the song or squawk they make. For these birds, though – it’s their beaks that really stand out.
Each bird species has their own unique traits and features, and after millions of years of evolution, birds’ beaks have evolved to use their beaks for fighting, eating, building nests, or mating and courtship rituals.
Strange-looking beaks come in all shapes and sizes, and they all serve a very specific purpose. These 20 beaks are some of the craziest.
These birds take the cake for ‘most interesting beak’ in the avian kingdom. Flashy or functional, all of them are incredible. Scroll through and find your favorite.
1. Rhinoceros Hornbill
On top of this beautiful bird’s beak is what’s called a casque – it curves upward and looks like a rhinoceros horn. Hence, how the unique bird got its name. Their bill was designed to pick fruit, and the casque helps amplify their calls.
2. Crested Coua
A member of the cuckoo family, the Crested Coua lives on the African island nation of Madagascar. The beautiful markings on the inside of their beaks disappear when they become adults, but each chick has their own unique design. The markings are thought to help parents identify their chicks.
3. Sword-Billed Hummingbird
This is the only bird with a beak longer than its body. Their 3 to 4-inch beak is used for them to easily extract nectar from flowers like passion flowers and fuschia. In these types of flowers, the sweet nectar is far down deep in the flower, this bird’s beak gives it a serious advantage in enjoying the delicious treat.
The Shoebill is also known as a Whalehead or Shoe-billed Stork. This interesting looking bird is located in East Africa and enjoys living in large swamps. The large hook at the end of the bill helps them decapitate their prey and dig up vegetation.
5. Red Crossbill
What might look like a deformity in their beak, actually serves a very specific purpose. The crisscrossed beak is perfect for getting this finch-like bird’s favorite food which are the seeds found deep inside pinecones. The bird places the tips of the beak under a cone scale and bites down, this pushes the scale up and shells out the seed.
6. American White Pelican
The large bill of the American White Pelican can hold as much water that is used to flush two toilets! Its giant beak can reach anywhere from a foot to a foot and a half long. The bill is used to catch fish and the growth on top is used for courtship. It will fall off once eggs are laid.
7. Collared Aracari
This beautiful bird belongs to the Toucan family and lives in southern Mexico all the way down to Ecuador. Their large bill helps them eat their favorite fruits, insects, and lizards.
8. Black Skimmer
This bird’s bill is very big, however, it’s very thin. Plus, the top mandible is quite a bit shorter than the lower. This feature is actually a big help when this bird goes fishing. It dives down, dips it’s lower jaw in the water and skims for fish.
9. Roseate Spoonbills
Just like their name suggests, their interesting-looking beak serves as a spoon. They submerge it in the water and swing it back and forth – their favorite foods are small crustaceans, fish, and insects. They also clap their bill together as a courting ritual.
10. Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill
Found in southern Africa, this angry-looking bird has a long, yellow, down-curved beak. The length can account for up to a sixth of its entire body. Males and females can generally be distinguished by the different sizes in beaks – males tend to have much larger beaks up to 90 mm.
11. Long-Billed Curlew
This North American bird has a long, thin beak that digs down deep in the sand for shrimp and crabs. They also go on land to dig up earthworms. This particular breed has one of the longest beaks of any shorebird.
12. Southern Great Petrel
That funky looking ridge on the top of the Southern Great Petrel’s beak are actually its nostrils. The large nostrils give the large bird an excellent sense of smell which helps find food and also to locate their burrow in a colony.
13. Toco Toucan
Toucans are brightly colored and have very prominent beaks. Although the beak is large, it’s actually quite light because it’s made of bone filled with spongy tissue. The bill helps aid them with eating fruit, and also to intimidate other birds or predators.
14. Great Hornbill
A large species of bird, much like the Rhinoceros Hornbill, the Great Hornbill has a huge beak with an enormous casque on top. The casque is hollow and is thought to be used for courting rituals; male birds have even been seen head-butting casques while in flight.
15. Canadian Goose
Although the Canadian Goose’s beak might not look that impressive, it actually has short, jagged, tooth-like structures around the edge. Geese don’t chew, but the ridges help the bird pull up vegetation from the ground.
16. Red-Necked Avocet
This ski-sloped billed bird is common throughout Australia and once appeared on the stamp back in 1966. Their odd-shaped bill is used for skimming the water and scooping up small invertebrates.
17. Keel-Billed Toucan
Toucans are a species that are known for their glorious bills. The Keel-Billed Toucan is no exception. It’s even more colorful than its Toco Toucan cousin, which is why it has the other name of the Rainbow-Billed Toucan.
There are approximately 180 species of woodpecker all across the world. Of course, they gained their name because of their habit of pecking and tapping at trees (and sometimes your home!) with their strong beaks – they do this for communication and to also look for larvae.
Flamingos are certainly famous for their bright pink feathers, but it’s useful and interesting beak should get a bit more credit. It’s actually designed to be used upside down and has a hairy-like filter that separates food from the mud and water.
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Did you know that a Kiwi is the only bird to have its nostrils at the end of its beak? They use their incredible sense of smell to locate food in the leaves. In fact, they have the second best sense of smell in the bird kingdom next to the Condor.