Birds with long beaks are some of the most beautiful and fascinating birds to grace the avian kingdom. Long beaks can be used for defense, preening, feeding, and more, but many birds have long beaks because it’s just part of their natural design.
Long beaks make some birds look funny, but also play an important role in their daily lives. Most of them use it to collect food from hard-to-reach places, some of which are even impossible for humans to reach! From nutcrackers to toucans.
While birds have many impressive features that make them fascinating to study, one of their most interesting characteristics is the length of their beaks. While there are hundreds of different types of birds with extremely different beak shapes and sizes, some are popular not just because of their physical traits but also because of how unusual they are.
In this list, we’ll take a look at 21 popular birds with long beaks you should know about.
Birds with long beaks
Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
The Eurasian Spoonbill is native to parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It has a very large beak for its size, which it uses to dig up food. Spoonbills are also sometimes called Swan’s spoons because of their shape. This species can grow from 80 to 90 cm long and weigh about 1500 g.
Females are typically larger than males. They have white plumage with black wing tips. They have orange legs and feet, but they turn green when they breed. Males have red bills while females have black bills during the breeding season. They prefer shallow lakes and ponds with reeds or floating vegetation where they can easily feed on small fish, frogs, tadpoles, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic plants such as water lilies.
Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer)
The Marabou stork’s most outstanding feature is its large size. It can be up to 152 centimeters (60 inches) in height and, at times, its weight can measure up to 9 kg (20 lb).
This impressive size has earned it many nicknames including Marabou Monster or Razor Stork. In appearance, it looks very similar to a vulture with a bald head, white plumage, and a black tail tip. However, unlike other birds of prey, it does not have any sharp talons.
Instead, they have thick legs that help them wade through swamps and marshes while looking for food. Their long beak also helps them dig into carrion as they feed on dead animals such as snakes, fish, and rodents.
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
This bird from Europe and Asia is one of many birds with long beaks. Its long, thin beak helps it to filter-feed on both freshwater and saltwater. In fact, you might spot one feeding in a nearby pond or lake.
And like all birds with long beaks, avocets are vulnerable to oil spills; that’s why you’ll find them on Greenpeace’s Red List of Threatened Species. The good news? Avocet populations have been steadily increasing since 1996, thanks to conservation efforts by organizations such as BirdLife International.
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
The Eurasian curlew is a migratory bird, and one of its destinations is Oman. It has a wingspan of around 89 to 106 cm (35 to 42 inches). The male birds are larger than females, with their breeding season lasting from May to June. Their diet mainly consists of crustaceans and small fish like sand eels.
They have long beaks that they use for feeding. The upper mandible curves downward while the lower mandible curves upward at an angle of 70 degrees or more. This curve helps them scoop up food as they wade through shallow waters on mudflats or in marshes looking for food.
Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Often mistaken for a bee-eater due to its colorful feathers and elegant profile, the Eurasian Hoopoe is actually a highly intelligent migratory bird. The Hoopoe is one of many birds that has adapted well to human habitation; it can be found in almost every part of Europe and North Africa, making its home in parks, gardens, and even on urban roofs.
A distinctive feature of the Hoopoe is its long, thin bill – which it uses like a straw to drink water or extract insects from plants. Another fun fact: they have been known to use their unique bills as drumsticks!
In addition to using their long beaks as tools, these birds are also capable of mimicking sounds they hear around them – even other species’ calls! Like most birds with long beaks, hoopoes are monogamous creatures that mate for life.
Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)
Looking for a bird with a long beak? The Black Skimmer is known for its black head and body and bright red beak that grows up to 40 to 50 cm in length. The bill of Black Skimmers is longer than their entire head and body, which gives them an advantage when looking for food along beaches.
They skim through water hunting crustaceans, snails, small fish, insects, and other marine life that they scoop up in their razor-sharp beak. During the breeding season, Black Skimmers become very territorial and will defend their nests by swooping down at intruders.
These birds can live between 10 to 15 years in captivity but do not survive well in zoos because they need to fly freely over open waters.
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
The roseate spoonbill looks like it’s wearing a red mask and yellow tie, but its elegant long bill is what gives it its name. In fact, the spoonbill isn’t one bird; rather, it’s a category of stork species that all have elongated bill tips. Roseate spoonbills are native to Florida, Texas, and California.
They live in marshes and eat fish as well as insects and plants. Although they look graceful on land, they are clumsy flyers. If you want to attract these beautiful birds to your garden, try planting water lilies or other aquatic plants along with bug-eating ones such as hostas and ferns.
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)
The hornbill has a massive beak, and even though it isn’t as long as a toucan’s bill or an albatross’s bill, it makes up for its lack of length with brute strength. Hornbills use their bills to hunt insects and other small creatures, but they also eat fruit — and they use their pouches like our stomachs to store food while they peck away at other morsels in search of protein.
These birds are huge: Up to three feet tall, they can weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. They have large wingspans (up to five feet) that help them soar through rainforests in search of trees where they can nest.
Despite their size, these birds are nimble flyers—they’re able to swoop down on prey from above thanks to special feathers that allow them to fly close to the ground without crashing into branches.
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
The American Avocet is a species of bird in the Recurvirostridae family. These large birds are best known for their characteristic stance, with long, slightly up-curved beaks that point straight upwards and black, yellow, red, and white coloration.
They can grow up to 41 cm (16 inches) in height. The American avocet’s diet consists mainly of aquatic creatures like small fish, shrimp, crabs, and larvae. It also feeds on insects and plant matter. Their breeding habitat is shallow marshes across North America, from Alaska to Mexico. In winter they migrate southward into Central America and South America.
Long Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
The long billed Curlew is a large, long-legged shorebird that breeds in North America. This species’ breeding habitat is grasslands near wet areas such as marshes and bogs. It migrates short distances from its nesting grounds to feed on insects and other invertebrates.
It then returns to the nest during spring and summer. The long billed Curlew has been declining for many years due to the loss of habitat and hunting. Today it is classified as vulnerable by IUCN.
We can find them in New England, Mid-Atlantic states (from southern Maine to Delaware), Great Lakes Region, Northern Great Plains, Southeast Canada (from Saskatchewan eastwards), and Central U.S. Rockies (from eastern Montana southward). The plumage varies according to season; males have a greyish head with white underparts while females are more brownish overall with light streaking above.
Red Billed Scythebill (Campylorhamphus trochilirostris)
The Red billed scythebill is a very small bird with an extremely long bill. Also known as a flower picker, it uses its bill to probe flowers for nectar and also eats insects. The scythebill looks like a cross between a sparrow and a finch.
It has black upper parts, pale brown underparts, and red eyes. They are found in southern Brazil, Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina. They build their nests in tree cavities and lay 2 to 4 eggs.
These birds are fairly common in captivity but rarely bred due to their specialized diet of fresh nectar from flowers which is difficult to replicate in captivity.
Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)
The toco toucan is a member of the family Ramphastidae and has a large, mainly black bill that curves downward. The bird’s head and neck are long, black, and mostly bare. The back of an adult bird is green while its belly is yellow or white; in males, an area on their breast turns bright orange during the breeding season.
Their legs are thin and pinkish-gray in color with sharp claws used for climbing trees. A typical toco toucan can grow up to about 18 inches (46 centimeters) long from beak tip to tail tip and weigh about 1 pound (0.45 kilograms). This species lives in tropical forests from southern Mexico through Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru.
They feed primarily on fruit but also eat insects, small reptiles, eggs, and nestlings when they can catch them. Toco toucans make their homes in cavities of tall trees where they lay one egg each year.
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
The Common Snipe can be found in most of Europe and Asia. In appearance, it has a rather long beak for its small size, but it is still significantly smaller than other long-beaked birds. It has an interesting behavior pattern: it burrows under leaves to create a nest and camouflages itself during the breeding season.
Its diet primarily consists of mollusks, insects, worms, and occasionally small fish. It was once believed that they fed on snails exclusively because of their name, but that theory was disproved by research.
While they do eat some snails, they prefer not to consume them due to their hard shells. This bird is also known as bog sucker or sucker because it will sit on top of the water for hours at a time without moving or taking any food into its mouth.
Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
The pelican is a bird with a large bill, including pelicans of many species. This family has 46 members, which include pelicans, gannets, and some storks. They are found on all continents except Antarctica and travel long distances, even as far north as Alaska and Canada in North America.
Australian Pelicans live along Australia’s coasts and come inland to breed during summer. During winter they migrate to warmer areas. These birds mate for life, but if one partner dies, it will find another mate within its own group.
Australian Pelicans nest in colonies that may have hundreds of nests together; each pair lays two eggs at a time, but only one chick survives from each clutch because it competes for food with its siblings.
Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
This medium-sized hummingbird is native to South America and was first discovered in 1878. It has a sword-like beak that measures roughly 13 cm (5 inches). The species only reproduce once per year, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of Earth’s most prolific breeders.
A female Sword-billed Hummingbird has been observed laying up to five eggs every day — for six consecutive days! The species mates for life and can live for around 20 years. Due to its large size, aggressive nature, and impressive lifespan, it has become a popular subject among birdwatchers.
However, due to habitat loss caused by deforestation, scientists believe there may be fewer than 10 breeding pairs left on Earth.
Shoebill Bird (Balaeniceps rex)
The Shoebill is a large species of stork that inhabits much of sub-Saharan Africa. While they can be found near bodies of water, they are not actually wading birds like many other storks. Today, it is considered one of Earth’s most endangered species, with less than 2,500 adults remaining in its native habitat.
Fortunately, it has been designated as an officially protected species under South African law. It is listed on CITES Appendix I and II and was first classified by Western scientists as Balaeniceps rex in 1829.
In 2000, it was transferred to its current genus, which had formerly been used only for a type of whale (Balaeniceps). The shoebill gets its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.
Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis)
The Great Hornbill is a large black-and-white bird with a very long, yellow beak. Their curved beak is capable of growing to over 10 inches. Males and females have different coloration and calls, but both sexes use their long beaks to reach deep into tree cavities in order to feed on fruit and insects.
They are social birds that live in flocks throughout India, Southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and northern Australia. They have been known to eat snakes as well. The Great Hornbill is considered a threatened species due to habitat loss.
Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
The Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), is found in most South American countries. The name toucan is derived from a Tupi Indian word Tucana meaning beak or bill. This colorful bird has a large, arched bill, which it uses for cracking nuts and other hard items.
If a toucan were to lose its bill, it could not survive in nature because of its lifestyle. It is also called a Rainbow Bird because of its multi-colored plumage. It has long legs with sharp claws that are used to catch insects on branches high above ground level. It also eats fruit, berries, nectar, and seeds. The female lays two eggs at a time and both parents incubate them until they hatch after about 18 days.
African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus)
The African jacana has a long, thin beak, which is why it’s also commonly referred to as a paddlebird. This makes it one of several species that are capable of catching fish and other small creatures by swimming/walking on lily pads, using its long beak to catch fish, and shoving them down into their throat for swallowing.
The jacana can grow up to 18 inches in length, making it one of Africa’s largest birds. It can weigh up to 3 pounds and lives primarily in tropical regions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (though there have been sightings in Southern Europe).
Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)
The Goliath Heron, also known as Giant Heron, is a species of large wading bird in the genus Ardea. It is found in humid lowland forests and subtropical shrublands in South America. Its range extends from Brazil to Argentina and Paraguay. As with many other herons, it has no blue on its body or head.
Juveniles are browner than adults and lack long eyelashes. Adults have a white crown that separates them from their close relatives, Little Blue Herons. They have a red face patch which separates them from Green-backed Heron (A. caeruleogularis). Females tend to be slightly larger than males and can weigh up to 1 kg more on average. This makes them one of the largest members of their genus.
Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis)
The Far Eastern curlew is a species of large shorebird native to Asia and sometimes considered to be in its own genus, Numenius. It has an extremely long bill—nearly as long as its body — that gives it its scientific name, which means curved neck in Latin. The upper bill is orange-red and slightly curved while the lower mandible is blue-gray and straight.
Curlews are wading birds that live on mudflats or sandy beaches. They have short legs with strong feet designed for walking rather than running, so they tend to shuffle their feet along when they walk.
This makes them appear clumsy but helps them avoid sinking into soft sand or mud. Their long bills help them probe deep into mud or water for food such as worms and mollusks, though they also eat insects and crustaceans.