Bird Beaks

Bird’s beaks are very important. They help the bird gather food and sometimes they rip, tear, or crush food. They can act as an extra hand, such as when parrots use their beak for climbing. They are used for building nests, and in some species of birds, they can even tie knots. They are also important for preening, which is making sure all of the bird’s feathers are in their proper place.

The top part of the beak is called the Upper Mandible, and the lower part is called the Lower Mandible.

To learn more about beaks and how they determine what kinds of food a bird eats, keep reading!

Types Of Beaks


blue winged warbler
An acute beak is one that tapers to a fine point at the end. This type of beak is delicate, and can be found in many insect eating birds such as warblers.


Greater Flamingo
Bent beaks are curved towards the middle of the beak, unlike hooked beaks which have a sharp hook towards the end. The flamingo is a well known bird that has a bent beak.


Brown Creeper
A decurved bill is one that curves downward.  The creepers are one type of bird that have this type of beak.  The curve helps them pulls insects out of the bark of trees.



No, this is not a beak that is sad.  It is a beak that is wider than it is high.  This is a very common type of beak for ducks.


Black Scoter
A gibbous beak is one that has a large hump on it.  This type of beak is found in scoters.


Barred Owl

Hooked beaks have an upper mandible that is longer than the lower mandible.  The upper part of the beak also hooks over the lower part.  This type of beak is found in many types of birds that need to tear and shred their food such as hawks, owls, and parrots.


Lamellate Beaks

A lamellated beak has tooth-like ridges that are used to strain tiny plants and animals from the water.  This type of beak is found in birds such as geese, ducks, and flamingoes.


American Woodpecker skull
American Woodcock

A long beak is much longer than the head. This type of beak helps the bird grab food that might otherwise be out of reach. Woodcocks, for example, use their long beak to probe for worms in the mud. Toucans use their long beak to pick fruit in trees. Herons use their long beak to catch fish.


Hudsonian Godwit

A recurved bill is the opposite of a decurved bill.  Instead of the bill curving down, it curves up.  This unusual bill can be found in avocets.  They swish the end of their bill along the top of the water searching for food.


Ruffed Grouse skull
Ruffed Grouse

A stout beak is one that is high and wide.  This is a great all-purpose beak that is used for eating a wide variety of foods.  It is found in birds such as the Ruffed Grouse.


American Gold Finch

Short beaks are much shorter than the head.  These beaks are usually strong for cracking seeds, but can also be thin if the bird eats insects.  Finches and warblers are two types of birds that have short bills.


American  Woodcock

A straight beak is one that has a straight line running down the middle when the beak is closed.  This type of beak can be found in many different birds including bitterns, herons, woodpeckers, and more.


Northern Shoveler

This type of beak is shaped like a spoon. It is wider at the end than at the base. This type of beak is found in the Northern Shoveler and is helpful for straining food from water.


Hooded Merganser

A serrated beak looks much like a saw blade. This tooth-like beak helps hold live food that might be trying to wiggle away. This beak is found in the merganser duck family.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird

This beak is cylindrical in shape, which means it looks like a circle as you look straight at it.  This beak is found in the hummingbird family.


Wide Beaks


Wide beaks are wider at the base than they are long.  These beaks are commonly found in birds that catch insects while flying.  The wide beak acts like a funnel, trapping more insects.  To further help, many of these birds have bristle feathers around their beak that also act like a funnel.

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