A bird’s beak is a specialized tool that helps it forage in a range of environments, from eating seeds off the ground to snatching insects out of the air. Researchers at Oxford University have been studying the great tit population in Oxfordshire for 70 years, and have recently discovered that the beaks of this bird species have apparently been getting longer. They suspect that this is an extraordinary example of rapid evolution, a result of the British obsession with feeding birds triggering the need for a longer beak to reach into garden bird feeders.
Seeds, beaks, and evolving birds:
- The researchers have documented that the beaks of great tits in the United Kingdom are as much as .01 inches (0.3 mm) longer than those of their European counterparts.
- Referred to as tits throughout much of the English-speaking world, these birds are called either chickadees or titmice in North America.
- Subtle differences in the beak shape of Galapagos finches played an important part in helping Charles Darwin shape his theory of evolution by way of natural selection.