A Bill for Every Occasion

Richard Moore Outdoor Report

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — There is a dizzying array of bird bills and behavior in our South Texas waterbirds. Richard Moore takes us out to explore the fascinating beaks and behaviors of these intriguing creatures.

There is a bill for every occasion in the world of waterbirds, and with each specialized bill comes a fascinating behavior.

There are divers and dabblers, skimmers and schemers, drillers and dancers, probers and piercers…seiners and spinners.

Least grebes with short sharp bills are expert divers, and while not every dip delivers dinner, they are very proficient pursuing underwater prey.

Dabbling ducks possess flat bills that help them strain water from the sides, as they busily consume plants and aquatic animals.
Skimmers are unique among the world’s birds sporting a lower mandible longer than the upper.    They gracefully glide just above the water skimming the surface for sustenance.
While skimmers skim, green herons scheme, disguised as reeds remaining still as a statue before suddenly thrusting their long sharp bills.
Shorebirds like Sanderlings drill and scamper, while reddish egrets dance for their dinner.
The long decurved bills of ibis enable them to probe the muck for aquatic creatures, while great blue herons pierce the water with their formidable bills snatching wiggling fish.
Spoonbills are seiners, and these wonderfully pink birds immerse their spatula shaped bills into shallows swinging their heads in wide arcs from side to side as they grasp small fish and shrimp. 
The peripatetic phalarope possess one of the most distinctive behaviors of all.   When feeding it frantically spins in a tight circle, forming a small whirlpool, that raises minute aquatic life to the surface. The phalarope then feverishly plucks prey with its diminutive bill.

There is indeed a bill for every occasion and a dizzying array of fascinating behavior.

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