ID tips & tricks

Bird Watching (UK) - - Id Challenge -

Noth­ing be­trays a bird’s feed­ing habi­tats more clearly than that bird’s bill. Bills are tools used for find­ing and ob­tain­ing food and pro­cess­ing that food, as well as gen­eral feather main­te­nance (and some­times to make sounds in dis­play and as a weapon for de­fence). As tools, bills have to have the func­tional form to per­form the tasks they need to do. In­sect-eater’s bills are fine and nar­row, while seed-eaters’ bills are usu­ally chunkier. Among passer­ines, this is per­haps most ob­vi­ously demon­strated by the finches. Dif­fer­ent finches can have rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent bill sizes and shapes to suit the birds’ needs. So, for in­stance, a Siskin has a fine pointed bill for ex­tract­ing tiny seeds, while a Hawfinch has a mas­sive nut-crush­ing mon­ster of a bill. And, of course, the Cross­bill has crossed mandibles for ex­tract­ing seeds from cones. Look at the bill first as a use­ful pointer for ID.

As tools, bills have to have the func­tional form to per­form the tasks they need to do. In­sect-eater’s bills are fine and nar­row, while seed-eaters’ bills are usu­ally chunkier

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