Build Your Own Bird Beaks to Learn About Adaptation, Diversity

Bird Beak Buffet

Discovery Place Nature

Have you ever wondered why so many different types of birds are able to live in the same area? Each of these feathery critters has a role in its environment, and the shape and size of a birds’ beak tell us a lot about them.

In this activity, we will examine bird diversity (the ways in which birds are different) and their adaptations (physical or behavioral changes that a living thing uses to survive in its habitat) by trying out different beaks.

Let’s be birds!

This activity will take about 10 minutes of preparation and consists of approximately 20 minutes of learning time. It is best suited for elementary school children.


  • Various bird beak tools such as tweezers, strainer, slotted spoon, pliers, tongs, chopsticks and/or two pencils
  • Items to represent different sizes and types of bird “food”
  • Use sequins, bobby pins, small beads or oatmeal to represent small aquatic life;
  • Use ping pong balls or elbow macaroni to represent large aquatic life;
  • Use rice or beans to represent insects;
  • Use sunflower seeds, pecans or almonds for nuts/seeds;
  • Use tennis balls, your favorite fruit (don’t worry you can eat it later!) to represent fruit;
  • Cooked noodles, fishing lures or candy worms to represent worms.
  • Cups, bowls, plates, napkins, etc. to put the bird “food” in. See Step 1.
  • Bird habitat information sheet found here
  • Activity Matching Sheet found here


  1. Set-up stations and tools. Look around the house to find all your materials. Get creative! As long the tool chosen, functions similarly to the tools listed, the activity will work. Place small bird food like insects and worms in narrow cups, aquatic bird food should be set up in a bowl with water, all others can be placed on a plate, bowl or napkin.
  2. Look over your birds and their habitats using the provided information sheet. Every living thing uses adaptations to thrive in its habitat. A habitat is a place where an animal lives; there, all their needs are met.
  3. Pick a tool, which will represent your beak. There are many different types of beaks. This diversity in bird beaks makes it easier for some birds to eat certain foods. Each species of bird fills a special role or function, called a niche. The shape of their beak is specifically suited for the food they eat. These differences in adaptations ensure there is less competition for food.
  4. Eat up! Visit stations around the table and use your chosen tool (beak) to try to eat different types of food. While you travel to each setting, think about the birds you reviewed earlier and their habitats.
  5. Examine the activity matching sheet to identify the bird your tool represents. Think over all of the wonderful bird food you attempted to eat. Is any food easier for your chosen tool to eat? What advantages or disadvantages does this tool present?
  6. Repeat until you’ve matched each bird with a tool. If you would like, check your answers using this answer key.

How to adjust for older learners

Older students can focus on genetic variation and natural selection. Have each participant select a tool and try to eat as many beans or rice as possible in 30 seconds. Record the results for each tool. Repeat at least two more times. Continue to record the amount of food “eaten” by each tool. The top three tools represent the successful birds able to survive and reproduce in their habitat. The remaining three tools represent birds that are not successful and will not survive nor reproduce in their habitat.

Additional Resources

For older students -

All About Beaks -