July 19th, 2024

Science Smarts: Some science is for the birds!

By Patty Rooks on July 6, 2024.

I had a wonderful long weekend camping! One of the highlights was a family of woodpeckers in my campsite. Once I found out what this strange sound was, I enjoyed observing and watching the momma woodpecker interact with the babies deep up in the hole in the tree.

Now that I am back home, I am much more aware of the variety of birds in my backyard. There are so many just enjoying the early morning sun as it peaks above the horizon. When I look out at them, they are busy pecking away at the shores of the pond, in the grass and even within the beautiful fruit trees in my backyard.

As I observe all of these birds, it makes me wonder how they eat with just a beak. I think we need to investigate further… Let’s get started!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


– Spoons

– Tweezers

– Clothes pins

– Tongs

– Sunflower seeds

– Marbles

– Styrofoam chips/pieces

– Various shapes of pasta

– Cereal

– Sand/dirt

– Two bowls

– Cookie sheet

– Shallow container

– Tray

– Zipper sandwich bag


1. Place the assortment of “food” into the various containers:

Place the sunflower seeds on the cookie sheet.

Marbles in a bowl.

Fill a bowl ½ full of water and add the styrofoam to it.

On the tray place the pasta shapes.

Fill the shallow container with sand and push some cereal down into it.

2. Using the “beaks” try to get the cereal into the zipper sandwich bag.

Try each of the beaks; tongs, tweezers, spoons and clothes pins.

3. This may not be as easy at you may think. Be careful not to get any water or sand into the sandwich bag, as this would not taste very good if you were a bird!

What is going on?

In this experiment, the tools you used represented the different types of beaks birds have. Observe some birds in your backyard and see how unique each of their beaks can be. Did you know that their beak can tell you a great deal about that particular bird?

For instance, birds of prey often have hooked beaks. A hooked beak is important to tear apart flesh like a bald eagle eating a fish.

Birds that wade in the water have slender bills that are useful for probing in the mud in order to find worms or even insects.

Ducks have flat bills that help scoop the seeds from the water and mud. Song birds often have those strong bills that will help them crack open the hard seeds and nuts they love to eat.

Patty Rooks, senior scientific consultant PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at praxis@praxismh.ca, http://www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook. Address: 12 826 11th Street SE, Medicine Hat, AB, T1A 1T7 Phone: 403-527-5365, email: praxis@praxismh.ca.

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