[CT Birds] Odd Characteristic of Hudsonian Godwit

Mntncougar at aol.com Mntncougar at aol.com
Mon Oct 19 22:27:46 EDT 2009

On two separate days I have spent some time taking pictures of  the 
Hudsonian Godwit currently at Hammo.  Despite two or three hours  observing the 
bird, I discovered something in my pictures that I never  noticed.  The bird 
has a Very Flexible upper mandible!  When the bird  opens its bill the upper 
tip bends quite sharply upward/outward.  I didn't  know this was true of any 
bird, but It is quite obvious in the pictures.   The bend is apparently 
created when the bird opens its bill, and I assume the  same muscles perform 
both functions.   
At first I was mystified as to why a bird that jams its bill up  to the 
hilt into the ground (see pictures) would have or want a flexible bill,  as I 
assumed the more rigid the better for that function.  After  considering it 
however, I have come up with what I believe may be the  answer.  If I'm wrong 
I'm sure there are people who can give us the correct  reason.
The bird rams its closed bill into the ground.  If it  encounters something 
it wants to eat, how does it get the food (earthworm?) into  the closed 
bill?  If you had 2  six inch sticks hinged at one end and  sharp at the other 
and pushed them into the ground, you would not be able to pry  the 2 pieces 
apart. I believe the bird is able to open Just The Tip of  the bill enough 
to grasp or suck in the food.  
The Godwit appears to feed in a manner very similar to the way  Ibis do, 
but Ibis have big, heavy, and obviously very rigid bills.   The mechanics of 
how the two feed must be very  different.
Pics at the link below:
Don Morgan

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