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Battle of the Beaks

Birds have amazing adaptations to the environment they are in, especially in terms of the food or prey that they eat. Investigate how beaks are an important example of how adaptations can be highly diverse and tightly related to function. 

Materials:

  • 8 scissors 
  • 8 plastic spoons 
  • 8 tweezers 
  • 8 large binder clips 
  • 5-6 boxes of large paper clips 
  • 200 large rubber bands 
  • 5-6 boxes of toothpicks 
  • 2 cups of macaroni 
  • 30 plastic cups (best if clear) 
  • 30 Recording Sheets, Graph paper, Grid for recording results

Other information:

  • This activity is designed for 30 students and can be done inside a classroom.

Activity 1: Specialised Beaks - research task

Research and investigate the diet of the following birds, and describe how the structure of their beak helps them eat the food that makes up their diet? 

Bird species

Beak

Diet

How does the structure of the beak help the bird forage?

Toucan

   

Australian Magpie

 

 

Australian Ibis

 

 

Kookaburra

 

 

Spoonbill

 

 

Sulphur-crested
Cockatoo

 

 

Wedge-tiled Eagle

   
All illustrations are free to use without attribution requirement from pixabay.com

Activity 2: Modelling adaptive advantages of specialised beaks

In any habitat, food is limited and the types of foods available may vary. Animals that are better adapted to take advantage of available foods will fare better than those who are less well adapted, and thus live to pass on their genes to the next generation. 

In this activity, you will be simulating birds with different beaks competing for various foods.

Method     

First hour 
1. Collect the materials - one beak and one cup.
2. You are a very hungry bird. You can only eat with the beak you have. The cup represents your stomach. It must remain upright at all times. You must hold the ‘beak’ in one hand and the ‘stomach’ in the other. You can only place food in your stomach with your beak. 
3. Certain food items will be placed in the feeding area. When your teacher or friend says “go”, collect as much food as possible placing it in the stomach until your teacher or friend says “stop.” 
4. Take one of the food items (paper clip beetles) and distribute the clips within the feeding area. Feed for another 1–2 minutes or until all the food is gone.
5. Students empty their stomach cups and count the contents. Fill in the recording sheet below. 
6. Repeat using each of the other food items and complete the recording sheet.
7. Examine the data: tally up the class totals for each of the beak types in a grid on the board and create a bar graph below your recording sheet representing the class total for each of the beak and food types.
8. Answer the discussion questions

Second hour 
9. Pick up your beaks and stomachs once again and return to the circle. Explain that obviously most habitats have more than one kind of food available. Think: what will your strategy be if all of the food types are available? 
10. Feed for 4 minutes and record your data in the recording sheet below. 
11. Repeat Steps 7-8 for second hour data.

Results

First hour 

Recording sheet

 

Paper clips

Macaroni

Rubber bands

Toothpicks

Scissors

 

 

 

 

Spoons

 

 

 

 

Tweezers

 

 

 

 

Binder clips

       

Bar graph

Discussion questions:

1. What did you notice about your feeding abilities?


2. Did everyone with your type of beak have the same success rate with the same foods? Why or why not?


3. What did you notice about your behaviour and the behaviour of others?

 

Second hour 

Recording sheet

 

Paper clips

Macaroni

Rubber bands

Toothpicks

Scissors

 

 

 

 

Spoons

 

 

 

 

Tweezers

 

 

 

 

Binder clips

       

Bar graph

Discussion questions

1 . What did you notice about your feeding abilities? How was this different from your previous eating experiences?


2. Did everyone with your type of beak have the same success rate with the same foods? Why or why not?


3. What did you notice about your behaviour and the behaviour of others?


4. What was your strategy for maximising food intake?


5. What would happen if all the bird types we have been working with flew to an island where no birds had been before and the only food type available was macaroni munchies. Which bird beak type would be unsuccessful? Explain your answer.