Birds with Strong Beaks

Including Hornbill, Crossbill and Wry Bill

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Tbe Bird's Beak or Bill and the Rhamphotheca or Horny Sheath

Bird Nostrils

Sifting Bills, Spatula and Spoonbills

Birds with Strong and Unusual Beaks including Hornbill, Crossbill and Wry Bill

Egg Tooth and Gender Dimorphic Bills

Strong beaks

The beak of Parrots is extremely strong; and well adapted to the breaking open of nuts by sheer force. The mandible ends in a transverse blunt edge, which presses against a corresponding horny prominence of the upper beak. In the large Microglossa (cockatoo), which lives on the stone-hard fruit of the kanari-tree (Canarium commune), the beak bears a striking resemblance to a sledge-hammer. Transverse ridges, like those of a file, are common in front of the prominence of the upper jaw, the bird using them as a rasp - no Parrot swallowing anything but absolutely comminuted particles of hard substance, or pulpy and soft food - and also for filing or sharpening its mandible.

In the SKIMMER, Rhynchops, the bill forms two sharp vertical blades, which somewhat gape asunder, with the further peculiarity that the mandibular sheath and the supporting bone itself is considerably larger than the upper portion. A vertically compressed bill is also common in the Alcidae, and is often vividly coloured during. the summer. In the PUFFINS the outermost bright layers of the horny sheaths, and the horny excrescences at the gape of the mouth and above the eyes are cast off periodically, these parts being developed for the breeding season (Bureau, Bull. Soc. Zool. France, 1877, p. 377 ff.)

Hornbills and Similar Protuberances

In many birds the covering of the bill, especially near the base of the culmen and the forehead, is swollen, and forms various protuberances, horns, knobs, and other apparently ornamental excrescences. In the Coots and in Musophaga (PLANTAIN -EATER) the coating of the culmen is produced backwards over the forehead, overlapping the latter as a conspicuous white or yellow soft plate. Often the underlying bones, especially the nasals and the adjoining premaxillary parts, are also swollen, and form a light and extremely spongy meshwork of cancellated bony tissue, a peculiarity which attains its highest development in the HORNBILLS and in the TOUCANS. Similar swellings are the knobs on the bill or on the forehead of the SCOTER and Mute SWAN, of Globicera among Pigeons, of certain Cracidae, and of Macrocephalon (MEGAPODE). In most of these cases the swellings are very light; rarely, as in the Helmet-HORNBILL, the bones of the forehead are greatly enlarged, and, although much cancellated, of great weight and strength; moreover, the horny epidermal covering of the forehead is three quarters of an inch thick, and of the hardness and weight of ivory.

Crossbills and Wry bills

Another deviation is constantly found in the beak of the Crossbill, the sharply-pointed and hooked ends of the upper and lower jaws crossing each other in an individually varying way, there being an equal number of right and left-billed specimens. This crossing begins to show itself before the young birds are fledged, increases with age, and ultimately leads to an asymmetrical development of the masticatory muscles and of the bones of the occipito-quadrate region.

In Anarhynchus frontalis (WRYBILL) the terminal half of the bill is turned towards the right side, an abnormality which exists in a marked degree even in the very young birds. The right edges of the premaxilla and of the mandible are thin and strongly turned inwards, so that the right and left sides are asymmetrical in section.  The left nostril and the groove which is continued towards the terminal third of the bill remain in their original position, but the right nostril, and still more the groove, are perceptibly slanting towards the right, as can be ascertained by viewing the bill from the dorsal side.
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