Judging a Book By The Cover - Bird Adaptations

Judging the Bird By It's Looks

You've probably been taught not to judge a book by its cover but when dealing with birds there is a lot you can tell just by looking at the bird's visible characteristics. What is the shape of its bill? How big is it? What is the color of its plumage? How are the wings shaped? Add that to its actions, such as how does it fly or perch, and you can probably already guess many aspects of this bird's lifestyle.

The two birds pictured here live very different lives even though they are both birds. They both have feathers and they both fly. Do they have any other similarities? What are their differences? Let's look closer.
 
hawk and bluebird compare
 

Red-tailed Hawk

Look at this bird's beak. Does this look like a bird made to eat seeds? Insects? Small mammals? That thick strong beak with its defining curve is definitely the sign of a meat eater. A true carnivore. This bird preys on small animals such as rabbits, mice, lizards, and occasionally birds.

Redtailed hawks are very large with strong feet and talons for capturing their prey. Another sign that this bird is a predator. What else can you tell by looking closely at this bird's physical features?
 
redtail hawk information
 

Mountain Bluebird

Look at this bird's beak. Is it different than the redtailed hawk's? This bird's bill is straight and pointed. This is a bill designed to catch and eat insects. Are the wings the same as the redtailed hawks? How are they similar and how are they different? These wings are designed for acrobatic flight to catch flying bugs. Mountain bluebirds are much smaller than redtailed hawks. Unlike redtails where size differentiates gender in these birds it's color. Males are a much brighter blue than females or juveniles.
 
mountain bluebird information
 

What Can You Tell By Looking At These Birds?

Look at the pictures below. Look at the beaks of these birds. What does this tell you about these birds? How are they perching? What can you infer from that? What do the colors tell you? What do these 3 birds have in common? What is different? Are these birds more similar than different? Or more different than similar? Once you think you have the answers to these questions about these birds, click on the image to take you to the answers.
 
 

What Can You Tell About These Birds Just By Looking At Them?

Look at these bird's beaks. What does that tell you about them? What do you think they eat? All 4 of these are very large birds. What does size tell you about their lifestyles? Are they more similar or more different than each other? What does that say about them? Should these birds be grouped together or should some of them be separated? Are there any unique characteristics that are different than any of the other birds we have seen? What are they and what might they say about how they live? Look closely at the photos and try to answer these questions. Once you think you have the answers, click on the picture to see if you are right.
 
 

What Do These Birds Have In Common?

Four more birds. Look at them closely. What do they have in common? What is different? Look at their beaks. What do you think they eat? These are all small birds who would be dwarfed by either a Red-tailed Hawk or Turkey Vulture. Can that tell you anything? Should these birds all be grouped together due to their similarities or should one or more be separated out? What about the shape of their wings? Does that give you a clue to this bird's life? When you think you know the answer to these questions, click on the photo to find the answers.
 
 

The Beak Speaks

Look at the 4 birds shown below. Look specifically at their bills. Is there anything different about their beaks than any of the other birds we have seen? If so, what could that mean? What do you think this bill is designed for? Look closely. These birds are all of similar size and all of these birds are fairly colorful. Does that tell you anything? Are color differences between the birds gender related? Age related? Or are some of these birds not the same species as others? What are the differences in these birds and what do they have in common? Once you think you know the answers to these questions, click on the image to see if you are right.
 
 

Colorful and Small with Long Bills

Look at the assortment of birds below. You know what the questions are. What does the beak look like? What could it be used for? What about coloration? What might it tell us about these birds? What do these birds have in common? What is different? Are they more similar than different? Is there anything unique about these birds that we haven't seen in the other birds we've looked at? What might that tell us about these birds lifestyles? Once you think you know the answers, click on the images below to check your deductions.
 
 

The Eyes Have It

Four more birds. You know what to do. What are their beaks like? What do you think they eat? What about their wings? Are they good or bad fliers? What about their coloration? Is this bird meant to stand out or to hide amongst the landscape? What do they all have in common and what is different? Is there anything unique to these birds that we didn't see in any of the other birds we have looked at so far? Once you think you have the answers, click on the images below to compare your conclusions.
 
 

One Last Time

Look at these 6 birds. Check them out and make deductions. What about beaks? What might that tell you about what these birds eat? What about wings? Are they good fliers or bad? What do they have in common and what is different? Do you think these birds all the live the same lifestyle? What is unique about these birds? What does their coloration tell you about how and where they live? Once you think you know who these birds are and how they live, click on the photos below to see how close your answers come.
 

Last updated: January 4, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance RD

Los Alamos, NM 87544

Phone:

(505) 672-3861 x0

Contact Us