Let us start with a simple but tricky question: What exactly are bird beaks and why are they different? For many people, bird's beak might be interpreted as human's mouth or nose, or combination of both. However, these answers are just partially correct. Bone are the main components of bird beaks, and the construction of bird beaks' bone is modified from common vertebrates' upper and lower jaw bones. And the beak is covered by a thin layer of keratin, which is made up of the same protein as people's hair and fingernails.

The color of a bird's beak comes about from concentrations of colors —— essentially melanins and carotenoids —— within the epidermal layers, counting the rhamphotheca. In most cases, beak color depends on a combination of the bird's hormonal state and eating habits. Colors are ordinarily brightest as the breeding season approaches, and palest after breeding. Some of the beaks are particularly beautiful, such as the vibrant orange ones. In the following paragraphs, we will introduce many fascinating birds with orange beaks and delve into some fun facts about them! 

1. American White Pelican

Overview: American White Pelican is large white water bird with a long neck, broad wings, and an orange beak. The birds fly with amazing steadiness using big white and black wings. They look prehistoric because they have big heads and impressively large, heavy bills. They use their big beaks to catch fish in the water, or float like a big duck and search for food. Pelicans sometimes team up to gather fish in shallow water so they can easily eat. In summer, you can find them in lakes, and in winter, they are near the coast.

Why Orange Beak? The orange beak of American White Pelican is due to carotenoid pigments obtained from their diet, primarily consisting of fish. 

Fun Facts: One American White Pelican is able to consume about four pounds of food every day.

2. Atlantic Puffin 

Overview: Atlantic Puffin is a small seabird with black and white plumage, and a large triangular orange beak. Due to this funky combination, some people call it 'the clown of the ocean'. It puts its eggs in holes on islands in the North Atlantic and lives in the ocean during winter. Puffins flap their small wings really fast to stay in the air when flying. When they swim underwater, their wings turn into powerful flippers that help them catch small fish until their beaks are full. The sad truth is people used to hunt it a lot. And now it's returning to the U.S. But It is having problems reproducing in some places because the water is getting too warm. 

Why Orange Beak? The orange beak is vibrant during the breeding season due to hormonal changes that enhance carotenoid deposition, making it a key feature for attracting mates. 

Fun Facts: They are very long-lived. There are known records of a puffin wearing a band while still a chick and living to be 41 years old, and some individuals may actually survive longer than that. 

3. Mute Swan 

Overview: Have you ever watched the world's most famous classic ballet show —— Swan Lake? The mute swan is the species of swan that the princess and her attendants in Swan Lake are transformed into. They are large white swan with an elegant neck and an orange beak with a black base. The swan swims in an S shape with its long neck and often slightly raises its wings above its back. Mute swans originated from northern and central Eurasia and have been domesticated since the 12th century in Western Europe.Their mean behavior and big hunger can cause problems for the environment, make other animals leave, and even be dangerous for people. 

Why Orange Beak? The orange color comes from carotenoid pigments in their food, which includes insects, small fish and aquatic plants. 

Fun Facts: Mute Swans stay with the same partner for a long time. Their reputation for only having one partner and their beautiful white feathers have made them a symbol of love in many cultures. The Mute Swan stays with the same partner for its whole life. 

4. Toco Toucan

Overview: Toco Toucan is widely favored all around the world due to its exclusive comical appearance. It has an adorable oversized orange beak and also orange color around eyes. Most of its other parts of the body are black and white. The habitat of Toco Toucan is tropical rain forests, and it can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay. 

Why Orange Beak? The vivid orange color of their beaks comes from the carotenoid pigments in their diets which includes fruits, insects, and small vertebrates (what an omnivores!). 

Fun Facts: The toucan's beak looks chunky and heavy, but it is actually quite light. It is empty inside and made of a protein called keratin. It has small bone rods to keep it strong and is like a hard sponge. Toucans make a noisy sound that sounds like a frog, and you can hear it from far away in the jungle, up to a half mile! The toco toucan is poor flyer, so it mostly moves from tree to tree by hopping. 

5. Royal Tern 

Overview: The royal tern is a big bird like the Caspian tern, but not as big. It has a bill that is orange-red, its back is pale grey, and its belly is white. However, the legs are black. In the winter, the black cap starts to look messy. Young royal terns look like adults that are not breeding. Young birds have black spots on their wings and a slightly yellow bill, unlike adults. The royal tern makes short, clear, high-pitched calls. Some of the high-pitched sounds are like "kree" or "tsirr". 

Why Orange Beak? The reason why the beaks of royal terns are orange is they eat fish and shrimp, which contain carotenoid pigments. They get these pigments by diving into the water to catch their food. 

Fun Facts: While the Royal Tern's cap is black and spiky during its breeding season, for the majority of the year it is simply a thin strip on the back of its head.With its white forehead, the bird looks like it has a hairline that is moving backward. 

6. Zebra Finch (Male) 

Description: Zebra Finches have complicated and stunning patterns in their tiny bodies. And the male Small finch has vivid orange in its beak and cheak. These cuties look unrealistic because of the gray bodies and white bellies —— which make them look like furry toys. The Australian zebra finch is a very common type of small bird found in Central Australia. It has also been brought to Puerto Rico and Portugal. Because it is easy to take care of and breed the zebra finch in captivity, it has become the most studied bird in Australia. By 2010, it was also the most studied captive bird species in the world by a large amount. 

Reason for Orange Beak: The orange beak in males is influenced by carotenoid pigments. Besides, their orange beaks are used to attract females during the breeding season. 

Fun Facts: The Zebra finch grows really fast. They are ready to make families and have babies when they are only 80 days old! 

Many of the birds mentioned above have been, or are being, threatened with population decline due to climate change, habitat occupation, etc. One of the simplest and easiest ways to help restore habitat and increase populations of birds in your community is to set up bird feeders or bird nests. Setting up a birdhouse will not only help the birds, but will also increase the connection between people and nature and community, so feel free to explore more through our website! 
July 02, 2024 — Leah Lin

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