So often when one is first learning to identify birds you look at the colors and patterns of the feathers to guide you, but one of the most important field marks is the bird’s beak. When I was in Central Park on Saturday I had the opportunity to photograph this Pied-billed Grebe as it floated close to shore at the reservoir in Central Park. Right next to it was this Northern Shoveler. While they definitely have different colors and patterns to their feathers, I couldn’t help but notice the wide difference in their beaks!
While the tiny grebe is a diving bird that uses its beak to capture food, the Northern Shoveler uses that shovel-shaped bill to sift through the water on the surface for vegetation to eat. This duck species is in a group known as the dabbling ducks or “puddle ducks” since it paddles around on the surface instead of diving for its food. Isn’t birding fun when you see species like these in such contrast to each other? If you want to have even more birding fun, just click on the links below.