Difference Between Beak and Bill (With Table)

Beak and bill both belong to the anatomy of birds. Most birds use it to eat and to feed their young children. People often use these two terms as synonyms, but they are not. They have differences in their appearance even though their functions are more or less the same. Beaks and bills assist us in recognising the birds’ species.

Beak vs Bill

The difference between a beak and a bill is that beak is pointed and round, whereas a bill is flat and not pointed. Different birds have different types of beaks. A beak is more pointy, and a bill is just a fleshy beak. The beak is more common in birds of prey, and the bill is common in birds like duck and flamingo.

Beaks have many functions and purposes, but their main function is feeding. Beaks’ structure can help to identify the species of birds. Hooked bills are referred to as beaks. These beaks are common in birds of prey. Hawks and eagles have this type of beak. But long beaks can also be seen in birds like nectar eaters.

Bills are flat-ended beaks, commonly seen in birds that feed themselves on water creatures. Their bills have a strong grip to get hold of slippery water creatures. Bills tend to be incredibly strong. The main purpose of the bill is to help in feeding. It also works as a weapon of defence.

Comparison Table Between Beak and Bill

Parameters of ComparisonBeakBill
ShapeBeaks have pointed and rounded ends.Bills have flat and rounded ends.
Prey Birds with beaks are birds of prey.Birds with bills do not prey.
Feeding habitBirds with beaks mainly eat meat.Bill is commonly seen in birds that eat water creatures.
BirdsSome of the birds with beaks are hawks, eagles, and owls.Some of the birds with bills are pigeons, hummingbirds, flamingos, and waders.
SharpnessBeaks are more pointed than bills.Bills are not usually pointed. They are rounded.

What is Beak?

Beaks are composed of a particular substance that is called keratin. It has a layer of the epidermis and also has two holes. These holes are visible at the top, and these are called nares. Their function is respiration. They are connected by soft tissues and bones. Beaks can be sharp, long, curved, or thin.

Just like humans, even birds can not move their upper jaw. All the work is done by the lower jaw. A Beak has many jobs to do. For birds, beaks are the only instrument to capture and manipulate their prey or to plant food.

The beak is also the only tool for defence. They build nests and communicate with the help of their beaks. They keep themselves clean and set their feathers with the help of their beaks. This method is called preening. It is a bird’s way to groom itself.

Even though beaks have many functions, the most vital one is feeding. With the help of beaks, birds not just only feed themselves but also their young ones.

Birds of prey like hawks, eagles, and vultures have hooked beaks, and they use them to rip open flesh. But also birds like nectar eaters have long, hollow beaks, and they use them to suck the nectar from the flowers.

What is Bill?

Bill has flat and round ends. Bills also have the main function of feeding. The bill has two parts, one is the bony skeleton of the jaws, and the other is the layer of flesh that covers the skeleton.

Bill is common in birds like flamingos and pelicans. Their bills allowed them to catch food from water easily. Their bills keep a solid grip on their slippery target.

Bills are present mostly in small birds, but these bills are surprisingly strong. Birds like finches use their bill to open seeds, and European hawfinch can crack open cherry and olive pits with the strength of their bills.

But again, birds like parrots and toucans do not have such strong and solid bills. They rather slice fruits with the help of their bills.

Bills have many shapes and sizes. The size and shape of the bill depend on the species and nature of the bird. Bills also act as a tool of defence. Birds can cause serious injury with the use of their bills.

Main Differences Between Beak and Bill

  1. We can determine whether it is beak or bill by its shape and size. Beaks are pointed, whereas bills are not pointed.
  2. Beaks have pointed round ends, and bills have flat rounded ends.
  3. Birds with beaks are generally birds of prey. Their beaks help them to prey and feed themselves. But birds with bills do not prey on other creatures.
  4. On the one hand, birds with beaks feed themselves with meat, and on the other hand, birds with bills eat water creatures. Beaks have the strength to rip open flesh from their prey, and bills have the required grip to hold on to slippery creatures of water.
  5. Birds like hawks, eagles, and owls have beaks, and birds like pigeons, hummingbirds, flamingos, and waders have bills.

Conclusion

A beak and a bill are very similar in nature, and they serve the same purpose. Both of them are part of birds’ anatomy. Beaks and bills have various shapes and sizes. The shape of the beak or bill depends on the species of the bird. Beak and bill both keep the birds well fed and safe from danger.

Nature is very systematic. It has created all its creatures as they need to be. Beak and bill are nothing but tools of survival. The type of beak or bill depends on the food habit and lifestyle of the bird. Beak and bill help the birds to adapt to the ecosystem.

References

  1. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/5224268
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mec.13868
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