Last year, I wrote an article about five birds with brilliant but bizarre beaks – from the wrybill, which has a bill that bends to the side, to the impressive shoebill, which has a massive, hook-tipped monster of a beak that is perfect for catching and holding onto large, slippery fish. But picking only five beaks to include in the list proved difficult, and there were several birds that I initially considered that were eventually cut from the final selection.
The earliest proto-birds, such as the famous Archaeopteryx, had heavy, tooth-filled jaws. But as birds continued to evolve and became increasingly aerial animals, they developed new ways of keeping their weight down. In addition to gaining hollow bones, their jaws changed too, into lightweight, versatile keratin structures – beaks.