Birds Beaks & Adaptations

Discover the many ways that Birds use their Beaks!

Birds are a class of vertebrates with more than 18000 different species. Of the various features that are common to all birds, perhaps the most characteristic is their beak. All birds have one beak. But it has evolved differently in each species to improve its functions in response to its environment. These functions include feeding themselves and their young, defending themselves, grooming their feathers, mating, regulating their body temperature or building nests.

But what exactly is a beak?

In biological terms, it is a type of mouth in which the jaws have no teeth and are covered by a horny layer of a protein called keratin (like the nails or horn of a rhinoceros).

What are the different types of beaks?

Generally, bird beaks are categorized according to their shape and function. There are several different kind of bird beaks:
1. Hooked beaks: Owls, eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey that use their beaks to rip open flesh. They are usually meat eaters.

2. Cone shaped beaks: Goldfinches, sparrows and canaries are all good examples. They have a short, robust beak that ends in a conical shape, allowing them to break open seeds.

3. Short, curved beaks: Parrots and macaws have short curved beaks for splitting open hard fruits and nuts.

4. Straight, thin beaks: Bee eaters and Robins specialize in catching and eating insects with their straight and thin beaks. Woodpeckers also have strong thin beaks to peck through wood to find bugs.

5. Long, thin, needle-like beaks: Nectar feeders such as Hummingbirds swoop their beaks into flowers to find their food.

6. Wide, flat beaks: Filter feeders such as Flamingoes, swans and ducks have a filtering system in their beaks to pick out the dirt from the ponds and riverbeds.

7. Spatulate beaks: Wading birds such as spoonbills have large long beaks that help them pick up mollusks and small animals from the bottoms of ponds and marshes.

8. Large, long, and strong beaks: Fish eating birds such as pelicans, albatrosses and seagulls have long, curved beaks to catch fish and then prevent them from escaping. The pouch on a pelican’s beak helps it take huge gulps of water to store the fish in it. Herons and Cranes have long, strong beaks to catch fish.

9. Crossbill beaks: The Red Crossbill’s crossed bill tips may look odd, but it is in fact a clever adaptation to getting seeds out of closed pine cones.

10. Multifunctional beaks: A Toco Toucan’s beak is not just for show, this multi-purpose appendage can be used to collect and skin fruit, frighten predators, attract mates, and defend territory. Recent research has also shown that it also helps to keep the bird cool in the heat of the tropical day.

Learn more about birds and their beaks by participating in our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment:

Also check out this interesting resource, provided by Mystery Science, on nests and why birds lay eggs in the spring!

Explore The Age of the Dinosaurs with HTHT Chicagoland!


High Touch High Tech Chicagoland is making science fun for kids in Frankfort! HTHT Chicagoland  is returning to the Frankfort Public Library for another cool program on Tuesday, September 20th.  More than 50 kids & their parents will go on a Jurassic adventure & step back in time to the age of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Jr. Classic program. Kids will get an up close look at cool fossils including a giant T-Rex foot. Participants will become Paleontologists for the day as they embark on a Dinosaur Dig using brushes to excavate REAL fossils from the sand to keep!

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Advance registration and valid Frankfort Public Library card required. Sign up online at in the programs and events calendar or call 815-534-6178 for more information.

Get more information on this event & others in the Chicagoland Area!

Contact High Touch High Tech of Chicagoland Today:

High Touch – High Tech Chicagoland


Ph. 630.227.4848

Fax 630.227.4849


Find your local High Touch High Tech to get started having fun with science! Check out our Locations page to find a HTHT near you!



High Touch High Tech Launches New KIDS Website

High Touch High Tech is pleased to announce the launch of our new website

Designed with kids in mind, this website is colorful, FUN and interactive. Children will enjoy the animated characters and sound effects while answering science trivia questions, giggling at science jokes and rolling up their sleeves to complete science experiments in their very own home!

We are excited to offer this new resource to teachers, camp directors, pre-school directors, afterschool coordinators and  parents as a safe place for children to visit online that provides both entertainment and education.

High Touch High Tech science education franchises have been fueling the imaginations of children everywhere, since 1994, by providing FUN, interactive, hands-on science and nature experiences. Through discovery style learning and inquiry based dialogue, children are engaged in exciting programs that encourage them to explore the many wonders of science. High Touch High Tech serves over 4 million participants annually across more than 750 school districts in 5 countries. For more information about Hight Touch High Tech – Science Made Fun, visit our website at

Sedimentary Rock Sand Art

Sedimentary Rock Sand Art
As we began preparing for an upcoming holiday mini-camp in Western North Carolina, we came across a fun science activity that could easily be done at home. Many of you have probably seen sand art which uses colored sand to create a rainbow of layers in a bottle. Well, did you know that this activity is a great way to demonstrate how sedimentary rocks are created?

Sedimentary rocks form thanks to the process of erosion. Wind, water, and ice slowly break apart all types of rocks turning it back into soil, or sediment. As the soil is being deposited from the wind and water on the ground, layers are formed called strata. The sediment builds up and the weight and pressure causes the particles to start sticking or cementing together to make sedimentary rocks. These rocks have layers in them from the sediment that made them. The layers at the bottom are older than the layers at the top because they were deposited first.

Supplies you will need:

  • 8 oz. plastic bottle with cap
  • Playground sand
  • Food Coloring (assorted colors)
  • Plastic container with lid (to mix colors)
  • Funnel
  • Plastic spoon

Instead of purchasing pre-colored sand, you can actually make it at home by following these simple steps:

  • Using a plastic container with lid, add 1 cup playground sand. Then add 10-12 drops of food coloring. Add more drops of food coloring to create the desired color.
  • Secure lid and shake container. Within one or two minutes, the sand particles will absorb and take on the new color.
  • Repeat this process for each color desired.

NOTE: You may want to allow the sand one day to dry otherwise you may find the colors will blend and turn brown once layered within your bottle.

The bottle is going to be the outside of the rock that holds the sediment strata within. Use a plastic spoon to scoop the sediment (colored sand) into the funnel that is placed into the top of the bottle. Using one color at a time, you will make different, colorful layers of stratifications.

Be careful not to shake the bottle up once you have started making your layers because all of the colors will start to combine and it will turn your rock brown.

You can also use different materials or types of sand including:

  • Pea gravel
  • Regular playground sand (without color)
  • Black sand (Silica sand)
  • Crushed sea shells
  • Miniature marbles (only with older children)
  • Rock salt