Sometimes people underestimate the importance of beaks, bills, and rostrums in identifying species.
Yet, a beak can make all the difference in a bird’s silhouette. It can also tell you what kind of diet this bird lives off.
Plus, they’re quite cute to look at!
If you’re looking for a list of the prettiest birds with long beaks, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started!
A lot of the examples that come to mind are waders, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a refreshing variation.
Some of them are common and have cultural significance, while the others are more on the rare side. Nevertheless, they all make for a great sighting!
Here’s a list of unique bills and beaks to keep and eye out for:
- Scientific name: Ensifera ensifera
- Wingspan: 7-8 in
- Length: 5.5 in (not including the beak)
- Weight: 0.4 oz
You can’t talk about birds with long beaks and not mention the iconic hummingbird with comical proportions.
Top Tip: The long and thin bill helps the bird suck nectar as it hovers over flowers, especially with the help of its curling tongue.
Measuring 4-in long, the beak is sometimes longer than the bird’s body. The sword-billed hummingbird is, by far, the longest of the Ensifera genus, so that’s saying something!
- Scientific name: Rynchops niger
- Wingspan: 14-15 in
- Length: 16-20 in
- Weight: 9-12 oz
Closely related to terns and gulls are the black skimmers, with their glossy black beaks and bright-red feet.
Since they’re usually waders, their lower beaks act like a scoop to pick up the prey from the water in one sweep.
Although the black skimmer can be spotted on both coasts of the States, it’s far more common in the eastern part of South America.
- Scientific name: Limosa lapponica
- Wingspan: 30 in
- Length: 15 in
- Weight: 10.2 oz
Bar-tailed godwits change colors often from buff to red, but their chubby silhouette seldom changes across seasons.
It has a bill that’s as long as the sword-billed hummingbird. However, it doesn’t seem so out of proportion here with the godwit’s body.
In geography and general appearance, the bar-tailed godwit holds some resemblance to the whimbrel.
- Scientific name: Numenius phaeopus
- Wingspan: 32 in
- Length: 17.5 in
- Weight: 14 oz
From breeding in Scotland to wintering in Africa, the whimbrel is a large migrating wading bird with an iconic curved beak that’s about 2.3-3.5 in.
Author Note: The genus gets its name from “noumēnia,” which is Greek for “new moon,” in reference to the crescent-shaped beak.
You can even see the same curve in other birds of the genus, like curlews, one of the largest waders ever!
- Scientific name: Numenius arquata or N. americanus
- Wingspan: 35 in
- Length: 25 in
- Weight: 17-35 oz
Much like the whimbrel, the curlews have the same long beak that curves at the tip. The main difference here is curlews have a longer beak, around 4.5-5.7 in, with longer legs and lighter chest plumage.
In fact, the long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) are the largest shorebird you can spot in North America!
You can even tell them apart by their distinct songs. The whimbrel releases very short whistle-like tones that aren’t as enchanting as the curlews’ crescendo.
- Scientific name: Fregata magnificens
- Wingspan: 7.5 ft
- Length: 2-3 ft
- Weight: 2.4-3.5 lbs
If you spot a male frigate during the mating season, the first thing you’ll notice is the inflated red balloon-shaped sac under its throat. That’s called the gular pouch.
Don’t let this red pouch distract you too long, though. Otherwise, you might miss out on its long and crooked beak!
All in all, it’s one of the most unique-looking birds you’ll ever see. It also happens to have the largest wingspan to body ratio of all birds alive today.
- Scientific name: Ciconia maguari
- Wingspan: 5 ft 11 in
- Length: 3 ft 11 in
- Weight: 8-9 lb
Maguari storks are a South American variation of the European white stork. It has a dash of extra color on the head and leg when compared to the pale white stork body. It’s also a bit larger. Other than that, they’re virtually the same from a distance.
It’s also worth noting that the stork is culturally symbolic of rejuvenation, family, and spiritual growth. After all, it has been the long-standing totem of birth in cartoons for a reason!
- Scientific name: Buceros leadbeateri
- Wingspan: 3-5 ft
- Length: 2-4 ft
- Weight: 8.4 lb
The southern ground variety is the largest of the hornbill birds. It’s close to a mature turkey in size. It even has the same brilliant red wattles!
For a beak, it has a rough and dark 8.5-in bill that matches its black plumage. With the sharp tip, the bird can catch its insect prey.
Unfortunately, it’s now considered an endangered bird since its population in South Africa is declining.
- Scientific name: Buceros leadbeateri
- Wingspan: 60 in
- Length: 47 in
- Weight: 5-6 lb
Although it’s closely related to the southern ground hornbill, the rhinoceros variety looks completely different.
Author Note: It’s overall smaller and darker in color with a buff bill. Instead of a red wattle, it has a second beak growing out of its forehead.
This second beak is actually a hollow keratin horn that supposedly helps amplify the bird calls during the mating season.
10. Royal Spoonbill
- Scientific name: Platalea regia
- Wingspan: 47 in
- Length: 30 in
- Weight: 50 oz
Royal spoonbills are large water birds native to the Australian mainland, especially around freshwater.
The bird’s bill is around 8.6 in long, but its length isn’t even the most striking thing about it. The way the bill ends with a wider tip is the spoonbill’s most noticeable feature.
If you get close enough, you can notice a pattern of gray-ish striations on the black spatulate bill. Seasonally, the male birds can sport a fluffy white crest. It just has an overall unmistakable look!
11. Pied Avocet
- Scientific name: Recurvirostra avosetta
- Wingspan: 30 in
- Length: 16.75 in
- Weight: 10.5 oz
As waders, avocets are usually seen in lakes and brackish waters, but it’s not impossible to spot one inland.
From a distance, the pied avocet could have been mistaken for a swan if it weren’t for its striking black and white patterns.
To complement the elegant plumage, the bird has a 3-in bill that’s solid black, slender, and slightly upcurved.
12. White Pelican
- Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Wingspan: 9 ft
- Length: 5 ft
- Weight: 23 lb
If you’re ever seen a pelican skim for fish, you’ll know how their bills expand to facilitate hunting and swallowing. They even have a fibrous skin gular pouch dangling from their bills for this exact reason.
Author Note: Astonishingly enough, the pelican’s gular pouch can hold three times more fish than the bird’s stomach. That’s a whopping 24 lb in its beak!
No wonder pelicans have the gusto to try and fight most animals that cross their path!
13. Eurasian Hoopoe
- Scientific name: Upupa epops
- Wingspan: 18 in
- Length: 11 in
- Weight: 2.3 oz
Eurasian hoopoes are foragers who spend most of their days on the ground level as opposed to hunting on tree branches.
The hoopoe uses its slender and decurved 2-in beak to pluck its food from the ground. Usually, its diet is composed of insects, berries, seeds, sails, and maybe even small frogs.
When it’s excited, the Eurasian hoopoe flaunts its crested head in marvelous shades of pink and brown.
14. Wilson’s Snipe
- Scientific name: Gallinago delicata
- Wingspan: 17-18 in
- Length: 10 in
- Weight: 4.2 oz
Wilson’s snipe is small and good at camouflage, but once you spot it, it’s obvious how large its beak is. It’s almost three times its head size.
Yet, the long beak isn’t the only interesting thing about the snipe.
Top Tip: During the mating season, the male passes air through its modified outer tail feathers to create a whistle-like sound called winnowing. It sounds truly captivating!
15. Glossy Ibis
- Scientific name: Plegadis falcinellus
- Wingspan: 3 ft
- Length: 20-25 in
- Weight: 15 oz
The glossy ibis is a majestic-looking shorebird that resides in coastal areas all over North America known for its fluorescent black feathers.
To match its dark plumage, the bird has a charcoal-colored beak that’s about 9.7-14.4 in length that it uses to poke for food in mud and water.
Although they can be found in Australia too, the white ibis beats it in popularity on the Australian mainland.
16. Bin Chicken (White Ibis)
- Scientific name: Threskiornis moluccus
- Wingspan: 3.7 ft
- Length: 26 in
- Weight: 3.7-5.5 lb
The bin chicken is often referred to as the Australian white ibis (not to be confused with the American white ibis) and it belongs to the same family as the glossy ibis.
It’s a peculiar-looking bird with an ashy white body contrasted with a solid black tail, elongated legs, bald head, and a 6.6-in beak.
Recently it’s been gaining a reputation for being a rubbish scavenger, but that’s mostly because its natural habitat is constantly declining. When it’s, in fact, a symbol of purity and adaptability.
17. American Woodcock
- Scientific name: Scolopax minor
- Wingspan: 6.5-7.7 in
- Length: 10-12 in
- Weight: 7 oz
While the woodcock’s beak isn’t particularly large, it’s relatively long (2.5-2.75 in) compared to the bird’s measurements.
Being very straight-billed adds to the bird’s distinctive silhouette in contrast to its plump and stocky body.
Top Tip: Unlike woodpeckers, the woodcock doesn’t use its beak to drill into tree bark. Instead, the elongated bill with the sharp tip is used to probe worms and insects out of the soil.
18. Great Blue Heron
- Scientific name: Ardea herodias
- Wingspan: 6 ft
- Length: 3.2-4.5 ft
- Weight: 4.6-7.3 lb
One of the largest herons to spot in North America is the great blue heron with a beak that often ranges around 5.5 in.
However, more often than not, the bird’s elongated legs and S-shaped neck often take all the attention away from its beak.
Although its beak is quick sharp, the bird sometimes dies choking on prey that’s too big for its throat.
19. Toco Toucan
- Scientific name: Ramphastos toco
- Wingspan: 43-50 in
- Length: 25 in
- Weight: 21-21 oz
While long and wide beaks are usually seen on wading birds to help them pick their prey, the toucan’s gleaming 7.5-in beak is all about courtship.
A colored variant of the toucan is keel-billed R. sulfuratus with a rainbow palette on its beak. Unfortunately, both bird populations are decreasing.
20. Green Aracari
- Scientific name: Pteroglossus viridis
- Wingspan: 12 in
- Length: 13.5 in
- Weight: 4 oz
The aracari is a small toucan with not-so-efficient wings. Visually, they have a silhouette that resembles a toco toucan but in a parrot’s color palette. That’s probably why its name means “large parrot” in Portuguese.
The majority of aracari birds are found in Central America and some parts of South America. However, it’s not uncommon to spot a collared P. torquatus in North America.
Since flying isn’t their forte, they need open spaces without obstructions to demonstrate their active flight skills.
21. Kiwi Bird
- Scientific name: Apteryx mantelli
- Wingspan: 4 ft
- Length: 1.5-2 ft
- Weight: 4.5-8.5 lb
The kiwi bird is a small ratite bird native to New Zealand with a long and thin beak that resembles a toothpick.
However, there are more distinctive features going on here than just that.
This bird has hair-looking feathers that it sheds like crazy. It’s the closest living relative to the extinct elephant bird. It doesn’t fly, and Ironically enough, it’s almost the same size as a chicken.
As other-worldly as it is, the kiwi bird is New Zealand’s unofficial national emblem!
There are various looks that you can see on birds with long beaks. From sharp and pointed beaks to the fleshy gular bills, each shape serves its purpose in the bird’s adaptability to its surroundings.
Yet, we can’t help but stare in awe at all these eye-capturing silhouettes!