Feeding in Birds: Thriving in Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Aerial Niches

  • Alejandro Rico-GuevaraEmail author
  • Diego Sustaita
  • Sander Gussekloo
  • Aaron Olsen
  • Jen Bright
  • Clay Corbin
  • Robert Dudley
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


We start with a general description of the structure of the feeding apparatus in birds (Sect. 17.1), then we describe the biomechanics of those parts (Sect. 17.2), including a review of contemporary approaches to the study of bird feeding morphology and function. We establish explicit links between form and function, and consequent relations to foraging behaviors. In Sect. 17.3, we systematically explore the vast diversity of bird feeding environments by grouping foraging (searching) and feeding (handling—consumption) mechanisms that birds use on land, air, and water. Each one of these subsections addresses not only what birds eat, but also how they feed. We dedicate a separate Sect. (17.4) to drinking because most birds have to perform this process regardless of their diet, and often using different mechanisms than the ones they use to feed. We then discuss evolutionary forces and patterns in bird feeding (convergences, radiations, trade-offs, etc.), including functions different from handling and ingestion that also act to shape the feeding apparatus in birds (Sect. 17.5).



We are grateful to Margaret Rubega and Gregor Yanega, who have profoundly shaped our understanding of feeding birds. Comments by Fritz Hertel and Juan Pablo Gailer substantially improved the manuscript. Special thanks to Katherine Shaw for assistance with the final stages of editing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Rico-Guevara
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diego Sustaita
    • 2
  • Sander Gussekloo
    • 3
  • Aaron Olsen
    • 4
  • Jen Bright
    • 5
  • Clay Corbin
    • 6
  • Robert Dudley
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State University San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  3. 3.Department of Animal SciencesExperimental Zoology GroupWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  5. 5.School of GeosciencesUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Biological and Allied Health SciencesBloomsburg UniversityBloomsburgUSA
  7. 7.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  8. 8.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama

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