A Bill for Every Job
Imagine you have to sit down at the table for a pasta supper tonight with your hands tied behind your back. You are starving, so refusing to eat is not an
option. What would you do?
Well, you would do what
birds do every single day of their
lives—lean forward and grab the
food items in your mouth, chew
on them a bit, and ingest them.
And, yes, it would be messy.
Birds, in the official sense, do
in fact have “hands”—they are a
collection of several small bones
at the wrist of each wing, referred
to as the manus. These bones
allow for the attachment of the
primary flight feathers. But using
their wings to pick up food items
just doesn’t work for birds, so
they use their bills and tongues to
Bills come in a wide assort-
ment of shapes and sizes, with
each having evolved to allow
various species to locate, grab,
and ingest its favored food items.
Bills are also used as a weapon
in aggressive interactions with
predators and competitors, and
parrots use their bills for climb-
ing in trees.