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What is the Difference Between a Softbill and a Hookbill?

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What is the Difference Between a Softbill and a Hookbill?

All members of the parrot family are known as hookbills because of the distinctive shape of their beaks.

Question: What is the Difference Between a Softbill and a Hookbill?
Answer: The terms "softbill" and "hookbill" are both used to describe different types of birds based on the structure of their beaks.

Members of the parrot family are hookbills. If you notice, the one thing they all have in common is that curved hook-like beak. The beaks of hookbills are capable of tremendous strength, and can crush the tough shells of nuts, seeds, and thick skinned fruits. Thus, hookbills eat a different diet than softbills, and knowing that a bird is a hookbill can give you a vague idea of the types of food it eats and even what region the bird originated from.

The term softbill is one of much controversy among the avian community. The term is most often used to describe pet bird species suck as the dove, finch, and canary, but many aviculturists contend that some of these species, such as the finch, would be more properly labeled "hardbills" or "waxbills", which would be more indicative of the bird's diet. In general softbilled birds eat soft foods, such as nectar, fruit, and insects. Most aviculturists agree that true examples of softbills would be birds like the robin and the blackbird, as well as other common North American species. An example of a true softbill more common to the pet trade would be the lory and the lorikeet.

Photos (c) 2006 Alyson Burgess licensed to About.com, Inc.
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