KLATSCHES OF EARLY RISERS, both human and avian arrive at first light at feeding stations, ready and waiting.
Four pieces of bacon, crisp, with hot toast (only white bread!) and coffee, black. Mixed seeds, heavy on the sunflowers.
Proprietors have read their customers wants by now. Habits as well. Humans will chew just about anything as they have for centuries.
But of course, birds don’t chew having no teeth as eons of evolution since the dinosaurs have shown birds crack seeds or macerate whatever food they use; grain, insects, flesh, fruit, fish, even leaves and so forth. Their beaks, a development of the jaw, have adapted to whatever has become their major food source. Therefore they need no teeth. How then, you ask, is the food absorbed for energy? The specialized GIZZARD, a widened, muscular part of the wall of the alimentary canal which birds regularly fill with fine grit gotten from roadside gleanings. You see birds often picking between highway and grassy shoulder getting the “fiber” needed to “grind” their food into the consistency necessary to be metabolized throughout their bodies. Acidic elements assist in the breakdown. Earthworms have gizzards also. Giblets are not to be confused with gizzards. Giblets are “sets” found in fowl or poultry—a “set” containing heart, liver and gizzard that SOME people MUST eat for their wholesome energizing and tradition. Go to it! Have my share!
How gizzards developed in the first place is only speculation. Why did birds lose their teeth so as note to have to chew but crack/soften but it is proposed that the jaw developed into the beak to take the place where teeth might have existed.
It took a long time. And as beaks came about they were specialized.
The most common beak in numbers in Illinois is our state bird, the Cardinal, then the sparrow and finches, all seed eaters.
Seed eaters have thick beaks vertically, the edges of them are used to crack and cut the outside husk to get at the “nut.” It’s the thickness of the beak that provides the necessary strength to open the protected, hard seed.
Pigeons & Doves also have “seed cracking” beaks that are long, thin and just right for scooping up grains which is swallowed in the entire.
Downy Woodpecker visits the feeder as part of the klatsch, using its beak to dig into “dead” tree wood for insects and worms, its staple.
Insect-eating beaked birds come in two kinds: sharp and pointed, broad and gaping.
Those charming Chickadees and Nuthatches have the pointed beak for digging into dead wood like Woody or under bark where insects and larvae hide out.
A gaping kind of beak is to take insects “on-the-wing” some of those with gaping beaks have “fine whiskers” around their mouths that aid in gathering insects more effectively into the bird’s mouth.
Down by the shore or riverside you’ll find even more specialized beaks.
Ducks have internal grooves on the inside of their broad beaks to channel food down their throats. The shoveler is aptly named.
Woodpipers’ long thin beaks to hunt for worms at the waterside.
Then the land bird with the curiously shaped beak, the Crossbill uses its “tool-like” implement to do such as pry open a pine cone to extract the seeds.
Flesh-eaters—eagles, owls, hawks, have sharply hooked beaks. Vultures have less sharply hooked beaks because the “carrion” they eat and flesh “softened” by the time doesn’t need much maceration!
Herons and Kingfishers are fish catchers so beaks are long and pointy. Some spear, others grasp them.
You see how the Bird World has adapted to its locale! It’s taken awhile but it can be done—even at your bird feeder.
Much of this information was inspired by a long ago newspaper article by John Schevegman which gives a different perspective in bird watching.
Bird watching illustrations all have arrows pointing to some feature of birds’ beaks to indicate their importance for identification.
The old illustrations are from a book assembled in America and Britain more than a century ago, History of Birds by Rev. W. Bingley, A.M. with “over 500 spirited illustrations.”
Despite “laborious personal research” one does wonder, however, if the research is as accurate as necessary!
Bird beaks have come a long way since the time of the dinosaur.
The human jaw hasn’t had to evolve nearly as much. Teeth have been adequate. If the jaws—teeth of those coffee—klatsches guys DID evolve like a Pelican’s beak, think how many pieces of bacon and toast could consume or numbers of cups of Joe!