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Abstract

There are at least 10,000 species of birds in the world, each species displaying its own unique characteristics. One of those characteristics is the shape of the bird's beak. A wide variety of beak shapes can be found among birds, each one specifically designed to meet the survival needs of the species. In this 6th grade science fair project you will hypothesize what birds eat based on the shape of their beaks.

Objective

Hypothesize the diet of birds based on the shape of their beaks.

Background

The characteristics of each living thing are not at all an accident. If a species displays a certain characteristic, it is because that characteristic once served, or is serving a purpose. The beak of a macaw is short yet very powerful. The beak of a hawk, or other raptor, is hooked. The beak of the curlew is long and curved, while the beak shape of the spoonbill explains how the bird got its name. All these beaks are used as specialized tools by their owners, in order to obtain food, though they may serve additional purposes such as attracting a mate, feeding younglings, and manipulating objects. Humans have modeled the natural world in order to cderive the design of many of inventions. It is believed that the "nose" design of the high speed bullet-train, the Shinkansen, was borrowed from the beak of the Kingfisher.

Scientific Terms

Birds, Evolution, Adaptation, Specialization

Materials

  1. Internet access
  2. Access to a zoo, bird park or pet shop that specializes in birds
  3. Access to a hardware store or home improvement store
  4. Camera
  5. Journal and writing instrument

Procedure

  1. Visit a bird facility and look for five species of birds that exhibit a variety of beak shapes.
  2. Take a photograph or draw a picture of each of the bird species.Note both the common name and the scientific name of each species.
  3. Visit the tools section of a hardware store or home improvement store. Look for tools that resemble the beak structure of each of the bird species.
  4. Find out the purpose of the tools that you have selected and record it in your journal (Remember, you are not looking for the specific purpose of the tool (such as: The purpose of wire cutters is to cut or strip wire); rather, you should understand how the tool functions (Example: Cutting, slicing, probing, crushing, or holding).
  5. Infer which tool best represents each of the bird species.
  6. Based on the purpose of the tool and the structure of the birds beak, create a hypothesis of what you think the bird eats.
  7. Use the internet and research each bird species to find out the diet of each species.
  8. How accurate were your hypothesis's?

Discussion

Nature is the ultimate designer, be it the web of a spider or a bee hive, nature's designs has provided the answer to the many challenges faced by the human race. Take time to study the shape of products you encounter throughout the day. Can you identify a similar shape in nature?

Questions & Answers

Which bird has the biggest beak?

The Australian pelican, which has beak 47 cm long. The lower beak, with its pouch, can hold three gallons of water.

Make it Your Own

Repeat this experiment with feet instead of beaks.

References

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