close up of great white pelicans
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Some people say that a bird’s beak is its most important and unique feature. It helps the bird eat, preen, defend itself, and even show off its mate. It also has a big impact on how the bird interacts with its surroundings. There are many types of beaks. Some birds’ beaks are long and some are short. Some birds have very small beaks, while others, as you’ll soon see, have pretty big ones. We are going to look at some birds with big beaks in this piece.

Large-billed birds have been evolving all over the world for a very long time. They have carved out specific roles in their environments that they must stick to. They are very important to the areas where they live.


Scientific name: Buceros bicornis
Length: 3.2-3.9 feet
Beak Length: 9-11 inches

You can find the Great Hornbill in central Southeast Asia, the Malay Peninsula, and Indonesia. They also live and breed all over Asia. They like to live in tall, wet, evergreen woods with old, sturdy trees where they can build their nests.

They are a very unique and brightly coloured bird with a special preen gland that releases coloured oil that the bird spreads across its feathers when it grooms itself. A big casque, an empty structure on top of the bill, is also on these birds. Males use it to fight with other males and attract females.


the large beak of a shoebill bird
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Scientific name: Balaeniceps rex
Length: 43-60 inches
Beak Length: 7.4-9.4 inches

Because its bill looks like a shoe, the Shoebill is also called the whalehead or whale-headed stork. It looks a bit like a stork and was once put in that category, but genetically, it’s more like a pelican or another big four-toed bird.

This bird lives in big lakes in tropical east Africa, from South Sudan to Zambia. Their top jaw has a strong keel and a sharp nail at the end that can be used for self-defense.

Their slow movements and tendency to stay still for long amounts of time make them stand out. They are also known for the noisy displays they do with their bills around their nest or when they want to meet another bird. This bird that looks like it came from a long time ago has one of the biggest beaks I’ve ever seen. It’s likely the first bird that comes to mind when I think of big-beaked birds.


pelicans with long beaks on grass against pond
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Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Length: 4.2-5.4 feet
Beak Length: 10-14 inches

It has wings that are almost 9 feet long, making it one of the biggest birds in North America. On their big, white and black wings, they fly very steadily. They use their big, pouched bills to catch fish.

They sometimes work together to push fish into shallow water where they can be easily eaten. In the summer, you can find them on inland lakes, and in the winter, you can find them near the coast.

Many people think that the American White Pelican keeps food in its bill pouch, but this is not true. It’s only used to pick up food, but they eat what they catch before they take off. They are also good at stealing food, and about one-third of the time they are successful when they steal from other pelicans.


rhinoceros hornbill perched on branch
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Scientific name: Buceros rhinoceros
Length: 37-41 inches
Beak Length: 9.2-12 inches

We had to talk about the Rhinoceros Hornbill when we talked about birds with big beaks. It has a big casque on top of its beak, like the Great Hornbill and other birds in the same family. It is made of keratin and works like a resonating chamber to make the bird calls louder so they can be heard all over the Indonesian jungles where the birds live.

Even though they mostly eat fruits and bugs, they have been known to attack small birds, reptiles, and mice. They also make a very special nest for their young. The female is locked inside a nest in a hollow tree, and the male can only get food to her through a small hole.


perched toco toucan bird
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Scientific name: Ramphastos toco
Length: 25 inches
Beak Length: 7.5 inches

The biggest and most well-known type of toucan is the Toco Toucan. It is also one of the most well-known birds with a big beak. This animal lives in the tropical forests of South America. The native people there believe it is a link between the living and the dead. Its big, colourful beak has caught people’s imaginations for a long time.

Their beak isn’t very useful as a tool; it’s just there to look cool. It’s made of a crumbly honeycomb of keratin and is mostly used to keep animals away. Its bill changes the flow of blood to its skin to keep its body temperature stable and move heat away from its body.


white and grey pelican perched on red railing
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Scientific name: Pelecanus crispus
Length: 5-6 feet
Beak Length: 14-18 inches

The Dalmatian Pelican is the biggest pelican species and one of the biggest birds that is still living. With wings that are almost 11 feet long, it is also one of the largest birds that can fly. During the season, its feathers are a beautiful silvery white. The rest of the year, they become a duller white or grey.

They like to live and move in groups, so they’re very social birds. That being said, they’re not very graceful on land, but they can swim and fly very well. Like all pelicans, they spend most of their time using their beaks to pick up food, clean themselves, and spread protective oil through their feathers.


close up of a hummingbird sitting on a branch
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Scientific name: Ensifera ensifera
Length: 5.5 inches
Beak Length: 4 inches

The Sword-Billed Hummingbird has the biggest body-to-beak ratio of any bird and is one of the biggest hummingbird types. They can eat flowers with long corollas because their tongues and bills are both very long.

Aside from mating, they live alone and the male doesn’t even have any involvement in the lives of his offspring after mating with the female. The female picks where to build the nest, what to use for it, and is also in charge of raising the chicks.


photo of a black and white australian pelican
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Scientific name: Pelecanus conspicillatus
Length: 5.2-6.2 feet
Beak Length: 15-17 inches

The Australian Pelican is known to have the longest bill of any bird that is still alive. It has a pink bill, white feathers, and black tips on its wings, making it a one-of-a-kind colour. It mostly eats fish, but it will also eat smaller birds and look for food scraps to add to its diet.

They cover big parts of mainland Australia and Tasmania. Usually, they cover large bodies of open water without a lot of plants growing in them. They have also been seen living in areas that get flooded after it rains a lot and any other body of water that has enough food for them to grab with their bills.


blue heron
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Scientific name: Ardea goliath
Length: 47-60 inches
Beak Length: 9.4 inches

The world’s biggest live heron is the Goliath Heron. It likes to stay close to water and rarely goes far from it. It would rather fly along waterways than over land. It usually hunts in shallow water, but it has also been seen near deep water over thick plants.

They hunt alone and are very protective of their territory around other herons. Almost all of their food is pretty big fish, and they only catch two or three a day. Frogs, lizards, and snakes are just some of the small animals they may find and eat with their long, sharp bill.



Scientific name: Macronectes giganteus
Length: 34-39 inches
Beak Length: 5-6 inches

The Southern Giant Petrel is famous for how strong and long-lived it is when it flies. They have a unique salt gland on top of their thick, hooked bill that helps them get rid of extra salt. Because they like to scavenge, they are called the vultures of the sea.

They will use the hook on their beak to catch and eat squid, fish, young penguins, and other seabirds when there aren’t many other things to eat. The biggest species of petrel, they “clack” their heavy bills together to show off during courtship.


Scientific name: Apteryx haasti
Length: 18-20 inches
Beak Length: 3.5-4.7 inches

The Great Spotted Kiwi is a small bird about the size of a chicken that can’t fly and almost doesn’t have wings. It can only be found in New Zealand. It’s related to the cassowary, the emu, and the ostrich. These birds can’t fly because they don’t have a special ridge on their sternum where the muscles that help them fly connect.

The kiwi is not only small but also looks funny. But it can run faster than a person and is very wary of things bigger than itself. The Kiwi is also very thick, and its bones contain marrow. This makes it hard for it to build nests in trees.

Kiwis don’t build nests, but instead dig holes. They also have changed feathers on their face and around the base of their beak that look like whiskers.



Scientific name: Rynchops nigra
Length: 16-20 inches
Beak Length: 3-4 inches

The Black Skimmer is a type of seabird that looks like a gull. Their beak is what makes them stand out; it’s very sharp, and the lower jaw sticks out against the upper half of the beak. They hunt by rubbing the bottom half of their beaks against the water’s surface, which lets them catch fish and other animals in their mouths.
Another thing that makes the Black Skimmer stand out right away is its bright red feet that match its bright orange bill with a black tip. Another thing that makes them special is that their pupils are big and have a straight slit in them, which is not common in birds. This is to make the sand and water less bright.


photo of black and yellow hornbill bird
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Scientific name: Tockus leucomelas
Length: 19-24 inches
Beak Length: 3.5-5 inches

People know the Southern Yellow-Billed Horntail from the movie The Lion King, where Zazu, the main bird character, is a Yellow-Billed Horntail. They eat many different kinds of things, like bugs, frogs, bird chicks, insects, and chameleons.

Because their beaks are bright yellow, people affectionately call them “flying bananas.” The bill of the female is shorter than the bill of the male. All hornbills have a casque that helps them make their voices heard across the African desert. They go hunting together with mongooses, waiting for the mongooses to dig up food and leave some for the small mammals.


close up photo of a whimbrel
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Scientific name: Numenius hudsonicus
Length: 15-19 inches
Beak Length: 4-5 inches

The Whimbrel is a pretty big bird with a long, frail beak that curves inward. They live in open areas like tundras to nest and mudflats, beaches, and saltmarshes the rest of the year. Whimbrels dig crabs and other sea creatures out of the sand or mud with their huge bills.

These birds may look weak, but they are strong migrators. They go from nesting places in the Arctic to wintering grounds as far south as Bolivia. As they fly over the open ocean, they sometimes have to avoid storms.


close up shot of a toucan
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Scientific name: Pteroglossus torquatus
Length: 16 inches
Beak Length: 4 inches

The Collared Aracari looks like a quieter toucan and is linked to the Toca Toucan in a very small way. They are from Central America and live in areas from southern Mexico to northern Colombia. They are the most common species of toucanet in that area.

Like a toucan’s, their bill is made of honeycombed keratin. It’s also very fragile and can’t be used for self-defense very often. Mostly, it’s used to get to fruit that’s on stems that are too weak to hold their own weight.

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