Long beaks are a common feature of many bird species, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Birds are fascinating creatures that have adapted to living in a variety of habitats. The long beaks on these birds help them find food, drink water, and even protect themselves from predators.
The beaks of birds serve many purposes. Some use their beaks to feed, like the woodpecker and the toucan. Other birds use their beaks for swimming, such as ducks and penguins. Others still may use them for defense.
Some have long thin bills perfect for probing deep into the ground for food, while others have shorter stout ones that help them crack open tough nuts. When it comes to birds, many of them have long beaks that are aesthetically pleasing and functional in their environment.
Birds with long beaks find themselves in several different groups, from finches to flamingos to hummingbirds and this list has 25 of the most interesting ones.
The Shoebill otherwise known as Whalehead or Shoe-billed Stork has one of the most impressive beaks in the bird world. They are found in the swamps of East Africa.
The Shoebill uses its massive beak to grab and swallow food whole, and it can do so with a fish up to 18 inches long. It’s a good thing, too because their diet consists mainly of fish and mollusks that can grow to some 200 pounds in weight and 20 inches in length.
Hornbills have huge bills made from strong keratin. For this reason, the bills usually last until the death of the individual and grow more prominent with age. A large and old statement can be up to 20 inches long in some species.
Hornbills also use their accounts for fighting rivals and sometimes predators, but they are most efficient when used for stripping bark from trees in search of insects. Hornbills can be found in parts of Asia and Africa.
Expert Tip: They also sometimes use their bills to probe into holes and cracks, using them like a crowbar.
The Kagu is a small bird that lives on the forest floor and feeds on insects and worms. It has very long legs, toes, and bills. Its bill is about 10cm long and horn-colored. It can use its account to search for food in leaf litter, dig up grubs, probe cracks, and crush snails against hard surfaces.
They are timid birds that rely on their camouflage to hide them from predators. As a result, they are very nervous about new things entering their territory, like humans or cats. They are tough to spot in the dense New Caledonian forest where they live.
4. Marabou Stork
The Marabou Stork is found mainly in open spaces of Africa and the Middle East. It has a wingspan of 6 meters, making them one of the giant birds in Africa. They are dark brown, almost black, with feathers sticking out of their head behind the eyes the “bou” part of marabou.
These are sometimes called ornamental feathers or wattles. They also have a sizeable downcurved bill that measures about 30-40 centimeters in length and is hooked at the end.
The account is primarily dark with a yellow tip and is lighter in color towards the base of the bill. They mainly eat carrion, but they will sometimes feed on fresh meat if they find it.
Jabirus are giant storks found in Central and South America and northern parts of Southern Africa. They have very long, thin legs which are pink in color. Their bodies are white or grey with black wingtips and a massive bill about 39-51 cm long.
Expert Tip: Jabirus usually forage by standing still in shallow water and waiting to ambush prey, usually fish and amphibians.
They also feed on lizards and other small vertebrates as well as giant insects. Jabirus are often provided in groups of 10 or more but are not colonial nesters. Their nests are usually spaced widely apart.
Eagles are some of the most giant birds of prey. Eagles are active hunters and will swoop down on their prey at speeds of more than 150 km/h. They have powerful beaks that kill their prey with a single strike, or sometimes to deliver a death blow after the prey is captured.
And like most birds of prey, they have long sharp nails, curved beaks, and excellent eyesight that can spot a little rodent from hundreds of feet in the air. They are found all over the world, excluding Antarctica.
Kiwi is very strange-looking birds that look more like a mammal than a bird. They have no visible ears, their wings are small and weak, they have long beaks, short tails, and use whiskers to sense their environment. Their feathers lack the shafts that make up the flight feathers of other birds and instead form hairlike filaments.
They are nocturnal, sleeping during the day in burrows and emerging at night to feed. Kiwi is almost completely blind, instead of using their sense of smell and touch to move around in search of food. They feed almost exclusively on earthworms, grubs, and other invertebrates.
Toucans are very colorful birds with large bills that they use to eat fruit. They usually forage in the upper levels of the rainforest canopy where their brightly colored feathers provide camouflage. The bill is often thought to be a big advertising tool used to attract mates.
They’re found mostly in Central and South America, with some species reaching north into Mexico and the Caribbean.
Expert Tip: Their bills are almost as long as their body, about 34-44 cm for most species.
9. Royal Flycatcher
Royal Flycatchers are about 8.5-12 cm in length and weigh around 13 g. They have a black head and upperparts with a bright red throat patch that is easily visible when they open their bill wide (like a big yawn).
This gaping motion serves to defend their territory. Their range is from Mexico through Central America, with some populations in South America.
10. Wood Stork
Wood Storks are large wading birds that live mostly along the coasts of North and South America. They have black feathers with white patches on their wings and tail. Their heads are featherless but covered by skin, mostly dark gray or red-brown. The backs of their necks are decorated with long, showy feathers that vary by age and condition.
They measure about 110-128 centimeters in height and weigh 4-6 kg. It’s the only stork found in North America.
11. King Vulture
King vultures are carrion birds, meaning they rely mostly on already dead animals for their food. Because they eat meat that is already dead, they pose a very low risk to humans and are often seen near human settlements. King Vulture’s range includes most of Central America and all of South America except the coldest regions.
They have featherless necks and heads as well as red or orange wrinkled skin. They live mostly in the Andes and western mountain regions, where they can find large amounts of carrion.
12. Mother Carey’s Chicken
Also known as the storm petrel, Mother Carey’s chickens look like swallows with very short tails. The adults have brown-gray plumage all over their bodies, while the juveniles have a darker gray plumage on top and lighter underneath.
Mother Carey’s chickens are found throughout the Atlantic ocean, from Canada to the southern tip of South America.
Expert Tip: They’re seabirds that breed mostly in areas without land, nesting on open islands or cliffs.
13. American Flamingo
American flamingos are the only flamingos that live in North America. They’re found throughout Mexico, Florida, and parts of South America. Unlike other flamingos, they eat mostly small plants, algae, and crustaceans instead of fish. Their pink feathers come from their diet, the more pigment from the food they eat, the pinker the feathers will be.
Their legs are reddish-pink, long and thin, about twice as long as their feet. They use them to stir up the mud when they are hunting for food.
14. King Penguin
King Penguins live mostly on and around Antarctica, although some breed further north during the winter. They mostly spend their time at sea hunting for fish, but they come ashore to breed. Their feathers are dark gray and white, with a few light brown spots on their backs.
King Penguins grow to be about 140-170 cm in height and weigh 20-25 kg. The females are slightly larger than the males.
15. South American Tern
South American terns spend most of their lives at sea, coming to land only to breed and rear young. They’re usually found in coastal waters, estuaries, and lakes. They have a pointed bill that they use to catch fish.
Their feather color varies, with some having black bodies and others white bodies. Some of them have light spots on their wings.
Expert Tip: They’re about 50-60 cm in length and weigh just over 400 g.
16. Lava Gull
Lava gulls are known for their colorful beaks, which they use to attract mates. Their feathers are dark gray with white spots on the back of their necks. They have yellow legs (greyer in older birds) with webbed feet and long toes.
Their bills are lighter than the rest of their body, with pink at the base and black further up. They breed in large colonies in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, but can also be found inland.
17. Great White Pelican
Great white pelicans are large birds with wingspans of up to 3 meters. They have long, flat bills with a downward curve to scoop up fish and water from the water’s surface. They hold their wings in a “V” shape when they dive for food. They have pink skin on their faces and legs, dark gray wings, and white bodies.
Young pelicans are mostly brown with some white spots around their heads. White pelicans hunt in groups during the day but roost alone or in small flocks at night.
18. Andean Condor
Also known as the king of the condors Andean condors are large scavenging birds with wings that can reach 3.2 meters. Apart from some white and brown on their necks and reddish-brown circles around their eyes. They have black feathers all over their bodies. Their hooked beaks are strong and sharp, used to tear apart large carcasses.
They don’t have a voice box, so they make sounds by rattling their beaks or breathing deeply. When they aren’t hunting, condors spend most of the day perched on rocks and high places to spot prey from a distance.
19. Crested Auklet
Crested auklets are small seabirds that spend most of their time at sea, only coming to land during the breeding season. They’re usually found in the North Pacific Ocean, but they also winter south of the Bering Sea. Their feathers are mostly gray, with white spots on their bellies and around their eyes.
They have pointed wings which they use to dive for food, and a small tail used mostly for steering.
Expert Tip: They also have a crest of shorter feathers on top of their heads that they raise when agitated or excited.
20. Arabian Bustard
Bustards are large, ground-dwelling birds with long tails and necks. They have small heads, short beaks, and strong legs. Their feathers vary from black to brown or white. Arabian bustards grow up to 110 cm in height and weigh 5-9 kg. They make a booming noise and spread their tails and wings when they’re threatened.
Bustards eat insects, snakes, lizards, and plant matter. They usually live in dry grasslands and deserts, but they also live near human habitations where they eat crops like corn, wheat, barley, and oats.
21. Greater Painted-Snipe
Painted snipes are medium-sized shorebirds that hunt for food both on land and in shallow water. They have long bills that they use to probe underwater for fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. They have round heads with small eyes, short beaks, large paddle-like tails, and long legs.
Their feathers are camouflaged to look like the reeds where they live, hiding them from predators. Their feathers are dark brown on their backs and light beige underneath. The head, neck, and upper breast of the greater painted-snipe is covered in black spots.
22. Eastern Oystercatcher
Eastern oystercatchers are large seabirds with orange legs, long pointed bills, and bright red eyes surrounded by patches of yellow skin. They have black tail feathers and gray-brown wings, with white spots on the outer edges. Oystercatchers are strong fliers, but they don’t spend very long in the air at a time or fly very high up.
Instead, they prefer to run around on foot. When swimming, oystercatchers can reach up to 25 mph. When they feel threatened, oystercatchers will raise their feathers and lean forward menacingly.
23. Rosy-faced Lovebird
Rosy-faced lovebirds are small parrots with short tails and grey or brown feathers that fade pink around their faces. They have dark beaks, feet that are partially covered in feathers, and strong legs. Lovebirds feed on seeds, fruit, grasses, and flowers.
Expert Tip: They’re very social birds, living in large flocks that can be made up of hundreds or even thousands of individuals.
24. Orange-headed Tanager
Orange-headed tanagers are small songbirds with black tails and backs, orange chests and throats, and brown-and-white striped tails. They have black masks around their eyes with a white line above them, and some of them have yellow caps on top of their heads.
Tanagers live in the rainforest s of South America, eating small fruit insects, spiders, and even lizards from time to time.
25. Bearded Reedling
Bearded reedlings are medium-sized songbirds with brown bodies and black, white, and gold patches. Their faces have bare red skin, which is ringed by long feathers. Bearded reedlings live in small flocks near water or marshes, where they feed on seeds, berries, insects, snails, and crustaceans.
They’re named after their long, thin beaks, which they use to probe the water for food.
What is a bird with a long beak called?
Birds with long beaks are called Charadriiformes. The size of the beak depends on the diet the bird has and this can tell us where it comes from. The beak is formed by an upper jaw or maxilla and a lower jaw, as in the rest of the vertebrates. Since they do not have teeth, they generally must swallow food without chewing.
The beaks are characterized by a great variety of sizes and shapes, some are brightly colored, others may have bumps that resemble a horn, gussets, or facial shields that cover part of the face, they may have fur at the base, lamellae like teeth and the lengths and shapes vary according to the type of diet that each species has.
Many species of birds have a long beak, those that have more specific eating habits. In addition, in many species, the beak has a certain flexibility, which also allows them to bury food in the sand or mud in search of small vertebrates.
Expert Tip: For other birds, beak allows them to catch the fish or make it easier for them to reach the nectar of some flowers.
Birds with long beaks are found in every continent and range from tiny hummingbirds to enormous ostrich. The number of species varies between different families. Still, even among one family, there can be a wide variation in size and shape, see for example, how almost all woodpeckers have such long pointed bills whereas finches typically don’t.
This is because birds evolved very differently depending on where they lived. Some places will favor small agile birds that can fly rapidly through dense forest, while others may prefer larger ground-feeding animals like ostriches that need vast amounts of food to sustain their large bodies.
The beaks of these fantastic birds are so long, and they can reach the ground to get food from the earth. These beautiful creatures have been around for a very long time and have adapted well to their environment. They may not always look like other birds that we’re used to seeing, but they sure do make an impression on us.
The beak length is just one-way evolution has allowed them to thrive while many others haven’t survived this far into our present-day world.