This roseate spoonbill’s bill looks a little more like a flathead screwdriver than a spoon!

I wanted to learn what purpose the spoonbill’s bill has. Wikipedia wasn’t of any use, but this article seemed to hold the answer.

    In uncommonly lyrical prose, [Robert Porter] Allen described how the bill sweeps “from side to side in wide semicircles, the mandibles slightly parted, the tips digging gingerly into the surface film of the soft bottom, beneath waters that are nearly always opaque. Delicate, sensitive to the small wrigglings and the darting, skittish movements of fish or prawn a quarter of an inch in length or of insects of even lesser dimensions, this keen, responsive instrument must serve as both eyes and hands.” He was mostly right.
    But engineer Daniel Wiehs and biologist Gadi Katzir, working in the early 1990s with a captive Eurasian spoonbill and a contraption that could have been invented by Rube Goldberg, discovered there is more to the spoonbill´s rhythmic bill-sweeping. The flattened bill, they found, creates mini-whirlpools that suck submerged prey items into the water column.

There are so many wonderfully clever things in nature. I don’t know what else to say than that!

Photo via Rob Parkin’s Flickr Photostream!
Link to the full article.

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