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BirdNote: Beak Meets Seed

Tim Lindenbaum

Birds like finches, chickadees and this Northern Cardinal love sunflower seeds, but each species uses a different strategy to extract the meat. When a finch plucks a sunflower seed from the feeder, it uses its tongue to maneuver the seed lengthwise into a groove on its beak.

As it closes its beak, a slight back and forth action slices open the hull, and a small sideways movement husks the seed, while the tongue may help extract the kernel. But chickadees lack the heavy duty, seed-slicing beak of a finch. Instead, they hammer and chip the hull open with the tip of the bill to extract the goods.