Bird Beak Adaptations
activity exercisesuggested grade levels:6- 8
view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

This activity will show students how some anatomical features (in this case, bird beaks) are adapted for certain uses but not for others. It is a fun activity that should challenge students to think in new ways. They will know that some tools are best for some jobs while not for others. In the same manner, different bird beaks are adapted for obtaining particular kinds of foods and not others.

1. Students will learn how to use the Bird section of the Digital Atlas
2. Students will observe how bird beak adaptations are specific for the types of food they consume.

Pipettes Colored Water in Bottle
Pliers Marbles
Tweezers Rice
Strainer Marshmallows floating in a bowl of water

1. Have your students to use the bird section Digital Atlas of Idaho. Click on Atlas Home, Biology, Birds, then on Birds of Idaho Checklist.

2. Let students examine the beaks of the following birds by scrolling down and clicking on the common bird name. Judging by each bird's habitat and diet, what do you think each beak is adapted for? (class discussion)

  1. Great Gray Owl
  2. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Sharp-tailed Grouse
  5. Great Blue Heron

3. Put out the bowl of floating marshmallows, rice, marbles, and bottle with colored water. Explain to the students that these four items represent different kinds of food for birds.

4. Show students the pliers, pipettes, tweezers, and the strainer. Tell the students that these items represent the beaks of different species of birds.

5. Ask students to predict which kind of "beak" will be best for getting which type of "food".

6. Ask for four volunteers, give each student a "beak" and see who can obtain the most rice in 30 seconds. Get four more volunteers and do the same with the colored water, marshmallows and marbles. Advise students that they can only use their assigned "beak" for obtaining food. No cheating!

7. Record data on the blackboard and analyze the data.

8. Ask students which "beak" worked best for which "food" and discuss how their answers are supported by the data.

9. Ask students to explain why the pipette was best for getting water out of the bottle, tweezers were best for the rice, pliers were best for marbles, and the strainer was best for the marshmallows in the water. Did their predictions turn out to be true?

10. Ask class for discussion why different kinds of birds have different types of beaks. Discuss the birds from the list or other birds they might be interested in and to make predictions about the diet of each species based on their careful observations of its beak (Different birds consume different types of food)

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
Birds of Idaho Checklist

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Birds
Biology: Biology Topics

Lesson plan by James Scannell and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: