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Bill Types Length Characteristics Shape Characteristics Color Long: the bill is decidedly longer than the head , as in a Ruby-throated Hummingbird or an American Woodcock Length Short: the bill is decidedly shorter than the head , as in a Carolina Chickadee or a Tufted Titmouse Length

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bill types
Bill Types
  • Length Characteristics
  • Shape Characteristics
  • Color
slide2
Long: the bill is decidedly longer than the head, as in a Ruby-throated Hummingbird or an American Woodcock

Length

short the bill is decidedly shorter than the head as in a carolina chickadee or a tufted titmouse
Short: the bill is decidedly shorter than the head, as in a Carolina Chickadee or a Tufted Titmouse

Length

slide4

Comparison of Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs

Comparison of Hairy & Downy Woodpeckers

Length

slide5
Straight: the line along which the mandibles close is in line with the axis of the head, as in a Great Blue Heron

Shape

slide6
Hooked:the upper mandible is longer than the lower, and its tip is bent over the tip of the lower, as in a hawk or a parrot

Red-tailed Hawk

Hawk-headed Parrot

Shape

slide8
Spatulate, or spoon-shaped: the bill is much widened, or depressed, towards its tip, as in a Northern Shoveler or a Roseate Spoonbill

Shape

slide10
Compressed:the bill, for a good part of its length, is higher than wide, as in a puffin or a kingfisher

Belted

Kingfisher

Atlantic Puffin

Shape

recurved the bill curves upward as in a godwit or an american avocet
Recurved: the bill curves upward, as in a godwit or an American Avocet

Marbled Godwit

American Avocet

Shape

decurved the bill curves downward as in a long billed curlew a western sandpiper or a brown creeper
Decurved: the bill curves downward, as in a Long-billed Curlew, a Western Sandpiper, or a Brown Creeper

Long-billed

Curlew

Western Sandpiper

Brown

Creeper

Shape

chisel like the tip of the bill is beveled as in woodpeckers
Chisel-like: the tip of the bill is beveled, as in woodpeckers

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Yellow-

bellied

Sapsucker

Shape

slide14
Terete: the bill is generally circular either in cross-section, or when viewed anteriorly, as in a hummingbird

Rufous

Hummingbird

Shape

bent the bill is deflected at an angle usually deflected downward at the middle as in a flamingo
Bent: the bill is deflected at an angle (usually deflected downward at the middle), as in a flamingo

Greater

Flamingo

Shape

stout the bill is conspicuously high and wide as in a grouse or a partridge
Stout: the bill is conspicuously high and wide, as in a grouse or a partridge

Gray Partridge

Ruffed Grouse

Shape

conical the bill has the shape of a cone as in sparrows or finches
Conical: the bill has the shape of a cone, as in sparrows or finches

White-throated Sparrow

Purple Finch

Shape

acute the bill tapers to a sharp point as in warblers
Acute: the bill tapers to a sharp point, as in warblers

Golden-winged Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Shape

slide21

with Angulated Commissure: the commissure forms a sharp angle at the point where the tomium proper meets the rictus, as in the Cardinal family

Northern

Cardinal

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

with gular sac the chin gular region and jugulum are distended as in a pelican
with Gular Sac: the chin, gular region, and jugulum are distended, as in a pelican

Brown Pelican

slide23

White-crowned Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Field Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Color

corvidae jays crows and allies
CorvidaeJays, Crows, and allies
  • medium to the largest passerines
  • bristles pointing forward over the nares
  • bold, noisy, and gregarious
  • often nest predators
  • intelligent; cache food
paridae chickadees and titmice
ParidaeChickadees and Titmice
  • small, sociable, and energetic birds
  • short, stout bill
  • cache food
  • in winter, form mixed-species flocks
sittidae nuthatches and allies
SittidaeNuthatches and allies
  • small, stocky forest birds
  • climb tree trunks; forage by gleaning
  • only birds that move down trunk head first
  • bill thin and pointed, typically straight
  • tail short and square
troglodytidae wrens
TroglodytidaeWrens
  • small to medium-sized, chunky, active birds
  • slender bill, often decurved
  • tail usually short
  • several species often have tail upright and cocked
  • often found in shrubby habitat
troglodytidae wrens28
TroglodytidaeWrens
  • mostly small (to medium-sized) brown birds
  • almost always solitary
  • active & secretive; creep through vegetation
  • often found in shrubby habitat
  • forage for insects & fruit
  • narrow head & long slender bill, often decurved
  • tail usually short
  • several species raise tail above back
  • most nest in cavities; a few build globular nests of sticks & grass
  • aggressive towards predators, at least vocally
sturnidae starlings
SturnidaeStarlings
  • medium-sized, stocky birds
  • short, square tail
  • gregarious
  • some are mimics
  • represented in NA by European Starling, a medium-sized songbird w/ the dark silky plumage & short triangular wings typical of members of this family
embirizidae sparrows and allies
EmbirizidaeSparrows and allies
  • small to medium-sized birds
  • often brown and streaked
  • short, pointed, conical bills
  • forage mostly on the ground
  • often seen in shrubs
embirizidae sparrows allies
EmbirizidaeSparrows & allies
  • large group of mostly small (some medium-sized), streaked brownish birds of grassy & brushy areas
  • often seen in shrubs
  • short, conical, pointed bills
  • most switch their diet seasonally, from mostly insects & larvae in summer to mostly seeds in winter
  • many forage on the ground using a “double-scratch” method of kicking both feet back simultaneously to expose food
  • some species form large, pure or mixed flocks in winter, while others have very specific habitat requirements & do not flock
fringillidae finches and allies
FringillidaeFinches and allies
  • small to medium-sized birds
  • sexually dimorphic
  • stout, conical bill (crossed in 2 species)
  • emarginate tail
  • undulating, fast flight
  • long, complex songs
  • often forest birds
fringillidae siskins crossbills allies
FringillidaeSiskins, Crossbills, & allies
  • small to medium-sized birds
  • often forest birds
  • stout, conical (sparrow-like) bill (crossed in 2 sp.)
  • usually short emarginated (notched) tail
  • sexually dimorphic; males often brightly colored w/ patches of red or yellow; females drabber
  • constantly give distinctive calls in high, strong, fast undulating flight & often perch in treetops
  • long, complex songs
passeridae old world sparrows
PasseridaeOld World Sparrows
  • introduced from Europe
  • similar to emberizine sparrows
  • small birds
  • stout, conical bill
  • no well-developed song; often repeat single elements