Bird Beaks and What they Eat

Bird Beaks and What they Eat


Students identify ideal beak shape for food.

Table showing different kinds of bids and options to see what shape of beak they have.

Upper primary (4th and 5th graders) assisted 1st graders


  • Bird beak/food handout
  • Straws
  • Dixie cups
  • Juice
  • Tweezers
  • Bowls
  • Wild grain rice
  • Slotted spoons
  • Cooked noodles (macaroni or similarly shaped)
  • Chopsticks
  • Gummy bears
  • White rice
  • Scissors
  • Marshmallows (jumbo)

Ask students why birds have beaks and what they are used for - allow time for discussion. Read a book about beaks to the group. I used Birds Use Their Beaks by Elaine Pascoe. After reading, discuss what bird beaks are used for and see how this compares to what the students originally thought. 

Then, discuss the five types of birds in this activity and what they generally eat. The birds included in this activity are hummingbirds (nectar), Mourning dove (seeds), ducks (aquatic bugs and animals), robins (berries), and eagles (meat). Show pictures of each bird and discuss the shape of the beak. (See file for images.) 

Image of the bottom of a duck beak.

Divide students up into groups and have them determine what kind of food is closest to what the birds actually eat and then which tool works best for that food. (Note that multiple tools might work for a type of food, so emphasize which works best.) The students should work in groups and put an "X" for the correct tool for each bird. Students should use dixie cups to represent the bird stomachs and move the food with the tool into their "stomach." 

Bird Food Our Food Tool
Hummingbird Nectar Juice Straw or pipette
Mourning dove Seeds Wild rice (black grains) Tweezers
Duck Aquatic bugs/animals Cooked noodles in water Slotted spoon
Robin Berries Gummy bears in white rice Chopsticks
Eagle Meat Marshmallow Scissors

Have students discuss the type of bird beak and what makes that tool useful for eating which type of food. 

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I love this activity! With middle school students, you can extend this to discuss how environmental change affects bird populations (e.g., What would happen to bird populations if prolonged drought caused only one plant species to survive in an area?)