Some interesting Bird Bill facts 🦅🦆🐦🦉
The top and bottom parts of a bird’s bill are called mandibles.
The upper bill or mandible is also called the maxilla.
All birds have their nostrils at the basal end of the top mandible, except for the New Zealand Kiwi where they are at the tip.
The edges of the bill are especially hard and sharp and are called ‘tomia’, singular ‘tomium’
The part where the two mandibles meet at the hinge of the bill is called the ‘Commissure’
No birds chew their food though they will use their bill to tear chunks off or to crush lumpy items before swallowing them.
Birds’ bills continue to grow throughout the birds lives, this is necessary to replace the wearing that inevitably occurs at the tips.
When birds open their mouths it is the lower jaw that does most of the moving, most birds can move the upper jaw to some extent though only in a few groups like the parrots is it anywhere near as flexible as the lower jaw.
Puffins have an extra bone in their jaws which allows them to open their bill and to keep both mandibles parallel. This allows them to hold a whole row of fish without the ones near the tip falling out.
Flamingos use their bills as a sieve and plate just like a baleen whales to extract small algal filaments from the water.
The large bills of birds like Toucans are hollow and much lighter than they look.
Birds’ bills are very sensitive, especially at the tips. Birds like Curlews can open the tips of their bills deep in the mud without getting a mouthful of mud.
The bills of some fish-eating birds have serrations along the edge to help them hold slippery fish. These are not real teeth.
The largest bill in the world belongs to the Australian Pelican, Pelicanus conspicillatus, 34-47 cm
Although a number of birds have upwards or downwards curving bill and a few like Crossbills have the tips curved to cross over each other, only the New Zealand Plover (Anorhynchus frontalis) has a bill curved to one side only (always to the right).
The Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) has a bill longer than the rest of its body.
Skimmers (Anhingidae) have their lower mandibles larger than the top ones. They fly with the lower mandible in the water and use it to flip fish up into the air where they can catch them.
The muscular response which snaps shut the bill of an Avocet, when it is sifting the soft mud at the edge of the tide for small shrimps, is one of the fastest ever recorded in the animal kingdom.
The bill of the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) hits the bark of a tree at about 21 km/h or 13 mph. The birds’ brain experiences a deceleration of about 10G every time this happens.
The Black Woodpecker, Dryocopus martius, strikes with its bill against a tree between 8 and 12 thousand times a day.
Avian Conservation & Education Network
Visual by Shyamal from India