[Tweeters] Bills

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Apr 17 08:40:29 PDT 2014

Sitting here this morning at my temporary desk in Port Townsend, I'm watching a pair of Black-capped Chickadees gathering nest material - this has been going on for two days now.

Their material of choice right now seems to be the thin papery bark of that fabulous Chilean shrub, Fuchsia magellancia, which does excedingly well here. Anyway, the chickadees are peeling off strips of the bark, stuffing it into their beaks, and then repeating this till they have a big beakful, and then fly off to the nest spot next door.

I kinda reminds me of seeing Rhinocerous Auklets, or Puffins with a bill full of 10 or so fish clamped sideways in their mouth. How do they catch another without dropping the rest, I've always wondered. I guess I've always had some sorta naive notion that bird bills were pretty much ridgid and clack together like castenets or salad tongs or something, which could'nt be quite true given what birds can do with bills. Besides salad tongs don't got tongues.

So I just googled around a bit and found out in the case of Puffins, they have ridges in their upper beak, and when the Puffin nabs a fish they, using their tongue, push the fish toward the rear the bill where the serrations hold them while the Puffin is nabbing another fish. How the chickadee holds all that paper I dont know exactly, and even short billed towhees and sparrows here have bills just full of nesting stuff, which they pile on without dropping.

Down on Kah Tai lagoon, just downhill from where I am, I've been watching the Ruddy Ducks turning bright ruddy, and their bills that bright blue! Amazing. May the Bluebill of Happiness land on your pond.

Jeff Gibson

reporting from

Port Townsend Wa

P.S The main migrants in the yard this week have been Orange-crowned Warblers, and Gold- crowned Sparrows - both all over the place.

More information about the Tweeters mailing list