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Bill Shapes and Diet

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Bill Shapes and Diet


A bird's bill is made of keratin, a substance something like our fingernails, and needs to be trimmed by chewing on tough surfaces. If a beak becomes too long it will directly affect the bird’s nutrition and a veterinarian will need to trim it.


Bills are also important for preening and to help maintain the feathers, keeping them in perfect condition. During a molt, a bird uses its bill to remove the feather casings of new feathers and to separate any new plumage.



Parrots have a very distinct bill structure, with the upper bill curving down over the lower bill. This enables a bird to crack seeds and nuts. The lower bill acts as the cutting block, allowing the pointed upper bill to slice through the casing of the seed. The power of the beak can be quite formidable with the largest parrot, the Hyacinth Macaw, being able to exert 300 lbs. of pressure per square inch.


Finches and Canaries

Bills of finches and canaries are short and pointed. They do not have to crack seeds the way parrots do, but break down the seed casing in their gizzard. 


Soft-Billed Birds

Soft billed birds, such as Lories, do not depend on seeds as a major part of its diet, but feed primarily on nectar and use their bills to probe flowers for nutrients.

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