Beaks, Bills and bird noses

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March 31, 2009birdNo comments

Beaks, bills, bird noses—whatever you call them—they are important to every bird.1 They are full of live tissues, regenerating after the billing (a puffin’s form of kissing / affection), bill-wiping, eating, and defending their young. The tips of bird beaks grow constantly due to the continually wear and tear. Some bird’s beaks even grow longer according to the season. The beak of the Puffin is one example of this seasonal color change. Puffins molt the the colorful outer sheath of their bills after breeding (seasonally). Their beaks brighten or fade in color when the old skin is worn down and the new layers are revealed depending on which season it happens to be. Maybe they do not need the extra attention after they have wooed their loves and mated.

Nares (nostrils) are often on the upper part of the beak. These can vary depending on the bird and its needs. For example, some birds have a protective flap, the operculum, covering part of the nostrils. This is helpful in keeping debris out.2 To each bird their own beak.

Most birds have black beaks and bills. There are some birds who have colorful beaks such as the Common Merganser, the Ruddy Duck or the choughs from the Corvid Family of birds. Besides the Toucan, no other birds compare to the magnificently colorful beaked Puffins.

Beak of the Puffin

Beak of the Puffin

References

Podulka, Sandy, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney, Editors. Handbook of Bird Biology. 2nd edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2004.

  1. FYI: The visible portion of the bill is called the rhamphotheca. []
  2. Podulka, Sandy, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Jr., and Rick Bonney, Editors. Handbook of Bird Biology. 2nd edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2004. []
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