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Dinosaur Discoveries

Bird Beak Buffet

Experiment with different utensils and explore each tool's capacity to pick up assorted food objects.


  • “Beaks”
    • toothpicks
    • straws
    • plastic tweezers
    • clothespin
  • “Bird Food”
    • uncooked macaroni (NOTE: this is a choking hazard for young children.)
    • small candies
    • raisins
    • sunflower seeds
    • ice cream sprinkles
    • small cups
    • pictures of different bird beaks (raptors, pelicans, cardinals, woodpeckers and hummingbirds)


    1. Ask your child, “What kinds of birds have you seen?” Allow him to name or describe the birds they have seen. Ask, “What do birds eat?” and “Does every bird have the same size and shape beak?” Allow her to describe the types of foods they believe birds eat and the different types of beaks they have seen.
    2. Explain that bird beaks have adapted to suit the animal’s environment. Look at pictures of different birds and hypothesize how their beaks may be useful when feeding. For example, raptors have hooked beaks to tear fish and prey; pelicans have pouched beaks to scoop up fish; a hummingbird’s beak protects its tongue that it uses to sip nectar.
    3. Explain to the child that they will be using different utensils to represent the different sizes and shapes of bird beaks. Her task is to pick up various different food items using their “beaks” and deposit them into the small cups. Show her the utensils and ask her what kind of beak they may represent. Show her the food items and ask them what kind of bird food they may represent. Write her observations on the board or a large flip chart.
    4. Give your child a set of every utensil, a small cup and small piles of each food item. Allow him to experiment with which utensil is best to pick up each food item. Regroup and discuss his findings. What size utensil picked up the small items best? How about the large food items? Ask him to make a hypothesis as to which utensil is best for gathering each food item.
    5. Tell your child it is now time to test their hypotheses. Testing one food item at a time, give him 30 seconds to gather as many pieces as possible with their test utensil and place them in their small cup. Create a chart to record his results.
    6. After testing each food item, review the results with your child. Ask him, “which utensil seems to be better for gathering each food item?” Compare and contrast the size and shape of the utensils to the size of the food item. Write down the child’s observations and conclusions on the board or a flip chart.
    7. Allow the child to eat the food items she has collected in their cups!

    Take It Further

    • Create a comprehensive chart that reflects the group’s results.
    • Read books or stories about birds together.
    • Spend 10 minutes bird watching outside. Share information on birds observed with a Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science online project such as eBird.
    • Watch videos of these species on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

    This activity was created in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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