Close this search box.

Bird Beaks


  1. Before you start, make a circle of tape on the floor about 1.5m in diameter, and mark a starting line 3m away. Divide the group into teams of 3-5 people.
  2. Explain to the group that they are going to try gathering food using tools that are like birds’ beaks. Show them the five different ‘beaks’. Ask them how these tools might help gather food (e.g. use spoons to scoop, toothpicks to stab). What items will be easiest to pick up with each tool?
  3. Scatter the different food items within the circle, then give a different set of ‘beaks’ to each team. Give each team a bowl or cup to collect the food in.
  4. Explain the rules of round 1:
    • Everyone starts behind the line
    • One person from each team runs into the circle, picks up one piece of food using their ‘beak’ tool, brings it back and puts it into the cup
    • The next person can then set off to the circle
    • Food cannot be touched with your hands, and only one piece of food can be picked up on each visit to the circle
  5. Give them five minutes to collect as much food as they can.
  6. Redistribute the food in the circle, and give each team a different set of tools to the ones they used for round 1. After another five minutes ask them if they collected more or less food this time.
  7. Discuss as a group what they’ve found in rounds 1 and 2 – this should include that there are some tools that can pick up a variety of different food types, and some that are more highly specialised.
  8. For the final round, ask each team to choose which type of beak tool they would like to use – see if this increases the total number of food items they can pick up as a team!

Reflect and discuss

After round three, ask the young people to discuss:

  • Why did they select their particular tool, and how successful was it?
  • What examples are there of birds that have specialised beaks to allow them to exploit a particular food source?
  • How might a bird population be affected if a particularly food source suddenly became unavailable? How would birds that are highly adapted to target one sort of food fare, compared with birds that have a wider range of food items?

You could even rerun the final round, but remove one food item, and see how the results change.

Take it Further

You could use pictures of birds to demonstrate real world examples, e.g. crossbill, spoonbill, curlew, shoveller, peregrine.

It might be helpful to use a flipchart or piece of paper per team to record how much of each food item they collect in each round.

This activity has been adapted from a resource produced by Edinburgh Zoo.

Resources Required

Cups or bowls (one per group), Masking tape, 3–5 of each of the following ‘beaks’: Cocktail sticks, Spoons, Forks, Tweezers, Clothes pegs; A selection of ‘food’ items (at least three of each per person): Marbles, Dried beans of different sizes, Pennies or buttons, Paperclips, Paper, scrunched into grape-sized balls, Rubber bands


Share this Activity:

Our website uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you agree to our cookie notice

Skip to content