Imagine having a tool you could use to prepare a meal, eat, drink, cool off, build a house—even convince other people you're bigger or stronger or smarter than they are. That's what a bird has in its beak or bill.

A beak or bill is a hard, often pointed structure that surrounds a bird's mouth. Birds don't have front legs, paws, or hands, so they use this adaptable tool to do many of the things other animals do with those body parts.

Long ago people used the word "beak" for birds of prey and "bill" for other birds. Today people use both terms for all kinds of birds. We'll use the most familiar terms for each bird we describe in this story.

Some beaks or bills are long and sharp. Others are stubby and strong. Still others are shaped like spoons or shovels. Every kind of bird has its own kind. And like a tool, every kind of beak or bill has its own kind of job.

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