With around 10,000 species of birds known to mankind, it’s hard not to get curious about which of them have the most powerful beaks. Birds can have such a wide range of beak types, from colorful to plain, thin to thick, small to large. In this article we will specifically look at birds with powerful beaks. These beaks allow them to eat hard-to-crack nuts and seeds, or even help them break into the shells of other animals’ eggs.
10 Birds with Powerful Beaks
Compared to our own teeth or nails, it can be quite impressive what these birds can accomplish with their powerful beaks!
1. Wood Stork
Scientific Name: Mycteria americana
Wood Storks are large wading birds that live in the United States tropical and subtropical regions. They’re North America’s only native stork and can be found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
These large birds can reach a wingspan of 5 feet and weigh up to 2.5 kg. They have a bare head with exposed scaly gray skin and white body plumage. The long downward-curved bill of the wood stork is one of its most distinguishing characteristics.
They snap quickly and are used to catch fish, crabs, frogs, and even small alligators. Wood storks can be seen feeding alone or in small groups during the breeding season, but these birds can also be seen feeding in large flocks when it’s not breeding season.
2. Peregrine Falcon
Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
Peregrine falcons are a type of bird of prey that you can find throughout North America. These are the fastest birds and can dive at speeds of up to 200 mph. They’re typically found on cliffs, power pylons, and along coasts, but can also be seen nesting in tall buildings throughout the city.
These birds primarily feed on medium-sized birds like ducks, pigeons, and geese. Peregrine falcons have extremely powerful beaks that they use to kill their prey after knocking them out in the air. Peregrine falcons use the tomial tooth in their beaks to cut the spine of the birds they have caught.
Scientific Name: Gypaetus barbatus
Lammergeiers, also known as bearded vultures, are large birds native to Europe, Africa, and Asia’s mountainous regions. They’re about 4 feet long and have a 7 to 9 feet wingspan. Unlike most other vulture species which have bald heads, lammergeiers have feathers on their face, head and neck.
These vultures are scavengers, which means they feed on the carcasses of dead animals, and bones make up nearly 85% of their diet. The Lammergeier has a powerful beak that they use to break through even the hardest bones.
4. Great Green Macaw
Scientific Name: Ara ambiguus
The Great Green Macaw, also known as the Buffon’s Macaw or the Great Military Macaw, is a large bird found in Central and South America, most particularly in Columbia and Panama. They’re the largest parrot species in their range, reaching 3 feet in length and weighing 2.9 pounds. These birds have a green body, a reddish forehead, and blue wings and tails.
The Great Green Macaw eats mostly seeds, nuts, and fruits. Their powerful beaks come in handy here, as these animals require strength to open large hard-shelled nuts. Unlike other species, they’re able to crack open large nuts.
5. Galapagos large ground finch
Scientific Name: Geospiza magnirostris
Galapagos large ground finches are a type of bird found on the Galapagos Islands. They’re the largest of the Darwin’s finches, feeding primarily on large seeds, insects, and fruits. The adult males of this species are black, while the females are brown with gray streaks.
This finch has a pretty large beak, compared to the size of its body. These extremely powerful beaks have 70 newtons of bite force, despite the bird only weighing about 33 grams. To put that in perspective, their bite force is 320 times stronger than a Tyrannosaurus rex’s. They use this strong beak to crack open large seeds.
6. Shoebill Stork
Scientific Name: Balaeniceps rex
The Shoebill Stork is a large bird native to Africa. It’s found in marshes and swamps throughout southern Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. A Shoebill Stork stands about 4.5 feet tall, with males being slightly larger than females. They have a blue-grey body with a very large beak that is hooked at the tip.
These large birds eat fish, snakes, frogs, baby crocodiles, and turtles that it finds while wading through the water. They’re ambush predators, and their powerful beaks help them catch and even decapitate their prey before swallowing.
7. Great Blue Herons
Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
The Great Blue Heron is a large bird native to North America. It belongs to the heron family and is frequently seen near water, where it hunts for fish and frogs. This heron has a very strong beak that it uses to catch its prey. Its beak is long and sharp, and it uses it to spear prey such as fish, salamanders, crayfish, shrimp, and crabs.
These animals prefer to nest near lakes, rivers, or marshes, where they can easily access food sources. They also build their nests in trees 9 to 21 meters above the ground.
8. Hyacinth Macaw
Scientific Name: Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus
The Hyacinth Macaw is a beautiful blue parrot species that can be found in the wild from Central to South America. They have large, strong beaks that they can use to crack open nuts, especially palm nuts. Their hooked bills are very useful in breaking open these hard shells, but they’ll also eat snails on occasion.
This species is the largest of the parrots, weighing up to 3.5 pounds and measuring up to 3 feet in length. They have a glossy blue body with a yellow ring around their eyes and under their beak.
9. American White Pelican
Scientific Name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
The American white pelican is a large waterbird with a wingspan of more than nine feet. They’re found in North America and spend the winter in the south and along the coasts. These amazing birds are typically white in color, with orange or yellow bills.
One of its distinguishing features is their lower bill has a gular pouch that can expand and hold up to 3 gallons of water. Unlike other birds that dive or spear their prey, the white pelican uses its long bill to scoop up food while wading in shallow waters. Their diet consists of fish, crayfish, and amphibians.
10. Moluccan Cockatoo
Scientific Name: Cacatua moluccensis
The Moluccan cockatoo, also known as the salmon-crested cockatoo, is an eye-catching large parrot native to Indonesia. Their feathers are pale pink, and they have a large retractable crest on top of their heads. Moluccan cockatoos are social birds that live in groups of up to 16 individuals.
These birds consume a wide range of foods, including seeds, fruit, nuts, and insects. They have a powerful beak that can exert up to 500 pounds of pressure, allowing them to break open hard seeds or nuts easily.
11. Pileated woodpecker
Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus
The pileated woodpecker is a bird that inhabits the forests of North America, from Canada to Oklahoma. It’s about 19 inches long, with a black body and red feathers on their heads. This woodpecker prefers to live in areas with hardwood trees, and they eat fruits and nuts, as well as insects, such as carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae.
Pileated woodpeckers have powerful beaks that allow them to excavate large holes in mature tree trunks without hurting themselves. Their beak works like a chisel, chipping away large chips of wood.