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Bird’s Beak, A (JHARVNC)

TopicLaboratory and Hands-on Activities - General
Outdoor Skills - Identification
Outdoor Skills - Reading the Woods
Outdoor Skills - Watching Wildlife
Wildlife - Adaptations
Wildlife - Birds
Bird beaks are well adapted for specific uses. Participants get to be birds and gather different kinds of “food” in their “beaks” and evaluate their success.
Recommended SettingTables
LocationJanet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith
ContactEducation Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993
Duration45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants25 - 30
  • Understand and appreciate the diversity of bird beak morphology
  • Realize that different types of beaks are adapted to different types of food
  • Animals such as birds are adapted to specific habitats/foods
Key Terms*






  • Various tools of different sizes and shapes to pick up food, such as tongs, tweezers, a skewer, scoop/spoon, slotted spoon, etc.
  • Food such as oatmeal, grapes, raisins, gummy worms, fish or other floaters/submergible, marshmallows, peanuts, etc.
  • Containers for food
  • Sheets copied to list type of tools and type of food at each station and which worked best. (The local instructor, depending on the food and tool examples, will develop this.)

All life forms adapt to the environment in which they live. Birds have several adaptations that help them survive and maintain their species: feet, legs, wings and beaks.  The purpose of this activity is to look at beak adaptations. Birds have many kinds of beaks, depending on what they eat and where their food is located. In addition to feeding, birds use their beaks to build nests, defend their territory, groom and communicate.  All these factors have helped determine the type of beak a species has. For this activity, the following types will be studied:

Beak explanations

  • Fish-eating beak – long, skinny
  • Insect-eating beak – short and stout but narrow for catching
  • Seed-eating beak – short, extremely strong, crushing
  • Fruit-eating beak – short, opens wide for picking up berries
  • Water- and mud-sifting beak – flat
  • Chisel beak – long, strong to drill holes in wood
  • Prey-eating beak – short, hooked, strong beak for sinking into prey
  • Probing beak – long, thin but not sharp beak for digging insects out of mud
  • Nectar-sipping beak – long, extremely thin
  1. Seat participants on the floor and introduce the topic and how it relates to the activity.
  2. Give instructions for the activity (whether participants will work in teams, what to do at each station, how much time per station, etc.).
  3. Hand out sheets. Instruct participants to list each station’s food and what tool worked best.
  4. Rotate participants through stations.
  5. When finished, seat participants again and go through stations, type of food, which tool worked best and what kind of real bird and food it represents.
  6. Wrap up by emphasizing the importance of diversity awareness within any animal community and the importance of filling a niche.
  • What is a niche in an ecosystem? Why doesn’t it work for all birds to eat insects, for example?
  • Birds were used in the example. What other living things diversify so they may harmoniously live in the same environment?  How?  (Hint:  fish, insects, etc.)
  • What other adaptations do birds have (other than their beaks) to make it easier

Adaptation – a natural alteration in the structure or function of an organism which helps it to survive and multiply in its environment

Beak – horny, projecting structure forming a bird’s mandible, used for eating, grooming, manipulating objects, killing prey, probing for food, courtship and feeding its young

Bird – any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg

Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs

Morphology – branch of biology dealing with the form and structure of organisms and systems