What are the eating habits of crows

The beak gives away the food

Crows like to eat larvae and beetles. Your beak reveals that. (Photo: dpa)

Do you like to watch birds at the bird feeder, in the garden or in the park? A little tip: Pay close attention to the beak. It tells you what the bird likes to eat best. It actually works!

"Nature has given every bird the right tool for feeding," says Peer Cyriacks. He is a bird expert at the German Wildlife Foundation. Just as there are small pliers for thin wires and large pliers for thick pipes in a toolbox, there are also birds that have narrow, pointed bills and others that have compact, powerful ones. Which bird species has which beak depends on what food it eats.

"For millions of years nature has ensured that the beak and the birds' favorite food go well together," says the biologist. This is the only way the species can survive. But all beaks have two things in common: They are very sensitive and are made of a hard material that is similar to our bones. Together with Peer Cyriacks, we introduce you to six common beak species.

The forceps beak

The nuthatch (Photo: dpa)

Blackbirds, nuthatches, robins, thrushes, starlings, wren and woodpeckers all have a tweezer beak. “These animals like small and soft food,” says Peer Cyriacks. Dried berries, raisins, apple pieces or worms are on the menu. The beak is long and pointed - similar to a pair of tweezers. “When the blackbird sticks its beak into the ground, it can feel whether an earthworm is stirring there. Then she opens her beak, picks up the worm, closes the beak and swallows the worm whole. ”Birds almost always swallow their food whole. Because they don't have teeth to chew with.

The compact beak

The blue tit (Photo: dpa)

You can often see birds with such beaks at the bird feeder. Their beak is shaped so that they can eat hard grains and nuts. Bookfinches, green finches, titmice and sparrows belong to this group. “The beak is compact and strong. He works like a nutcracker, ”says Peer Cyriacks. However, the animals only eat the core and not the shell, because they do not tolerate it well. “We don't eat the milk carton either.” The animals have come up with various tricks to separate the shell and core from each other. Tits fly to a quiet place with the whole nut, hold it with their toes, peck at it and only consume the inside.

The spoon beak

The duck (Photo: dpa)

Water birds like ducks and swans have bills that are shaped like a spoon. It is perfect for pounding, so to look for food under water. The mallard dives under the surface with its beak open and collects all sorts of aquatic plants. “It works almost like a landing net,” says the expert. Then the duck squeezes out the water, sorts out bad things like garbage, and swallows the food. Other ducks dive along the bottom of the lake, feel their surroundings with their beak and specifically eat mussels or insect larvae.

The saw beak

A goosander eating (Photo: dpa)

Sawyers are also ducks. In contrast to most ducks, however, they do not root, but rather hunt small fish. To do this, they need a particularly shaped beak: it is narrow and pointed and has teeth like a saw on both sides. "If the animals catch a fish, they clamp it between the prongs so that it cannot slip out of its beak," says the expert. Then they swallow it whole. These birds can stay underwater for more than a minute. There are, for example: the large goosander, the medium-sized saw and the small dwarf saw.

The hook-beak

The common buzzard (Photo: dpa)

Most birds that hunt and eat meat have hooked bills. These include eagles, hawks, sparrowhawks and owls. The beak is strong and sharp-edged. Sometimes the birds kill their prey with their beak, sometimes with their claws. “The bigger the prey, the bigger the beak,” says Peer Cyriacks. The common buzzard, for example, has a small beak because, as the name suggests, its favorite food is mice. The golden eagle, on the other hand, has a larger beak because it hunts rabbits and foxes and cannot swallow them whole. He picks pieces from the animal with his beak.

The omnivorous beak

The jay (Photo: dpa)

Birds such as the jay, jackdaw or magpie do not specialize in a particular food, but rather help themselves from every corner. They don't feel worms underground as well as the blackbird and they don't separate the shell and core of a nut as perfectly as the tit - but they can do a little bit of everything: crack acorns, devour waste or cut worms. The birds in this group eat almost everything: insects, mice, carrion, fruit, nuts or human waste. "Its beak is like combination pliers for different foods and doesn't look special either," says Peer Cyriacks.

By Angela Sommersberg

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