Long bills in birds are an evolutionary feature that enables certain species to retrieve food in hard-to-reach places.
This feature is typically seen in mid- to large-size waterfowl, but inland birds of various sizes can also have long bills. The following twenty are perfect examples of small birds with long beaks in the world:
- Red-Headed Woodpecker
- Eurasian Hoopoe
- Sword-Billed Hummingbird
- Rockefeller’s Sunbird
- White-Headed Wood-Hoopoe
- Long-Billed Dowitcher
- Kiwi Bird
- Red-Bearded Bee-Eater
- Stork Billed Kingfisher
- Wilson’s Bird of Paradise
- American Woodcock
- California Thrasher
- Scarlet Honeycreeper
- House Wren
- Rufous-Tailed Jacamar
- Red Crossbill
- Slender-Billed Scimitar Babbler
- Brown Creeper
- European Starling
Note: The birds above have long beaks compared to their body size and are not listed in any particular order.
1. Red-Headed Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Made famous by Looney Tunes’ Woody the Woodpecker, the red-headed woodpecker is one of the most common North American small birds with long beaks.
Its expansive geographic range stretches west to east from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains and north to south from Canada to Texas and Florida.
Recognizable by the crimson-red head and upper chest, the red-headed woodpecker measures around nine inches in length and has a chisel-like bill that can grow up to 1.5 inches.
The beak is strong enough to bore holes in trees; the bird uses it to get to insects and larvae found underneath the bark layer.
In addition to the red-headed woodpecker, all other woodpecker types have long beaks and are small in size.
2. Eurasian Hoopoe
Scientific name: Upupa epops
The most widespread species of the genus Upupa, the Eurasian hoopoe, is one of the most beautiful small brown birds with long beaks.
Its distinctive feature, however, isn’t the beak but the stunning cinnamon-colored crest topped with black.
This bird is native to the Old World, its range spanning Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. Depending on the permanent range, the species can display migratory or non-migratory behavior.
Eurasian hoopoes grow up to 12 inches in size, and their thin and curved bills are about 2.36 inches long. They use their beaks to probe the earth for worms, insects, and larvae.
3. Sword-Billed Hummingbird
Scientific name: Ensifera ensifera
Native to the Andean regions of South America, the sword-billed hummingbird is one of the smallest birds with a long beak and tail but one of the largest hummingbirds.
Adults grow up to 5.1 to 5.5 inches and can weigh up to half an ounce. The striking fact, however, is the beak that is almost as long as the body – around four inches.
Like all hummingbirds, the sword-billed type uses its long beak to reach the nectar inside flowers with long corollas.
Because most of these flowers are inaccessible to other species, these birds play a leading role in pollination.
Similar to woodpeckers, all other hummingbird types are small and have long beaks, the actual bill length varying from species to species.
4. Rockefeller’s Sunbird
Scientific name: Cinnyris rockefelleri
A poorly known and vulnerable species, Rockefeller’s sunbird occupies a very small range in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo but is one of the most colorful small birds with long beaks in the world.
It measures around 4.7 inches in length and is recognizable by the rainbow-colored plumage that varies from iridescent green and blue on the head, back, and tail to gray on the wings and bright red and yellow on the chest.
The long beak is narrow and curved, often exceeding one inch in length.
This family of nectar-feeding birds includes over 120 species of sunbirds and spiderhunters, all of them sporting stunning plumages and long, downcurved beaks.
5. White-Headed Wood-Hoopoe
Scientific name: Phoeniculus bollei
Growing up to 15 inches in length, the white-headed wood-hoopoe male is one of the most beautiful small blue birds with long beaks in the world.
This passerine native to Africa has a white head that transitions to an iridescent dark blue on the body.
The red beak is long and straight; the bird uses it to probe the ground or gain access to larvae in tree hollows.
Females are similarly colored but smaller than males; they also have shorter beaks. Bills aside, both genders have stunning tails that are about as long as their bodies.
6. Long-Billed Dowitcher
Scientific name: Limnodromus scolopaceus
Larger than other birds on this list but one of the smallest shorebirds with long beaks, the long-billed dowitcher grows up to 12 inches in length and sports a 3-inch long bill.
Its geographic range spans from northwestern Canada and western Alaska in summer to southern Mexico in winter, making it one of the most common small birds with long beaks in Texas during the cold months.
This bird is similar in size and color to the short-billed dowitcher that lives in the same geographic range, but is slightly taller and has a shorter beak – albeit long compared to its body size.
7. Kiwi Bird
Scientific name (genus): Apteryx
The national icon of New Zealand, kiwis are strange small birds with long beaks. Depending on the species, they can grow between ten and 17 inches tall.
No matter their size, they are all characterized by stocky bodies, short wings, no tails, and smooth, hair-like feathers.
All kiwis have narrow beaks that can grow up to six inches long. These pointed, downcurved bills and the highly-developed sense of smell help them find insects and grubs in the soil.
8. Red-Bearded Bee-Eater
Scientific name: Nyctyornis amictus
Found in the Indo-Malayan region of Southeast Asia, the red-bearded bee-eater is, in fact, a small green bird with a long beak.
Its name is owed to the bright orange-red patch on the chest and chin, while the hot pink forehead gives off a striking contrast with the rest of the plumage.
As its name suggests, this bird eats insects, especially bees but also wasps and hornets.
The long beak allows the bird to sit motionless, hidden in dense foliage, and catch the insects that rest on the leaves or seek the nectar in flowers.
9. Stork Billed Kingfisher
Scientific name: Pelargopsis capensis
A small bird with a long beak and yellow chest, the stork billed kingfisher, is another bird native to Asia, just like the red-bearded bee-eater.
This is one of the largest kingfishers, reaching up to 13 inches in length. The red beak is about 1.5 inches – long enough to catch fish effortlessly.
Like most kingfishers, the stork billed type also eats crustaceans, frogs, and even insects, small mammals, and lizards.
Belted kingfishers, one of the three kingfisher species in the USA, are one of the most common small birds with long beaks in Arizona.
10. Wilson’s Bird of Paradise
Scientific name: Cicinnurus respublica
Endemic to Indonesia, Wilson’s birds of paradise are small black birds with long beaks and bright bursts of color on the head, back, and wings.
Specifically, this bird of paradise species impresses with vibrant blue, yellow, and red hues.
One of the smallest bird species, it is about six inches long. The beak is robust and long enough to fit in holes and snug tree hollows.
This bird feeds on arthropods, insects, larvae, other small invertebrates, and even fruits – the beaks enabling them to break hard shells and seeds.
11. American Woodcock
Scientific name: Scolopax minor
The only woodcock species in North America, the American woodcock, is a common small bird with a long beak in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri.
A shorebird by lineage, the American woodcock is typically found in open forests, moist pastures, and young woodlands. Regardless of their habitat, though, these birds prefer areas near the water.
The brown plumage blends well into the environment, concealing the small and plump bird from predators.
Their long beaks can grow up to three inches long, enabling the birds to probe the muddy soils in search of earthworms.
American woodcocks have a least concern conservation status and can typically be hunted during the quail or pheasant season.
12. California Thrasher
Scientific name: Toxostoma redivivum
Actually native to Mexico, the California thrasher is one of the most abundant small birds with long beaks in California and Baja California regions.
Similar to the American woodcock, this bird is a dull brown in color, the shade helping it blend into the environment and escape predators.
Its diet consists of a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates, its long, sickle-shaped beak helping it dig them out from the earth or tree hollows.
This bird grows to approximately 12 inches long and is about twice the weight of a Northern mockingbird.
Similar to other birds on this list, other thrasher species are also small in size and have long beaks.
13. Scarlet Honeycreeper
Scientific name: Drepanis coccinea
Aptly named for its scarlet red plumage, the scarlet honeycreeper or ʻiʻiwi is a gorgeous small bird with a long beak in Hawaii.
This nectarivorous bird is about six inches long. Their curved beak is sickle-shaped and over an inch in length. It can easily reach into deep flower corollas.
Despite their small size, these birds are often aggressive to other species near nectar sources.
While their beak is an adaptation to drink nectar from the endemic Hawaiian Lobelioids flowers, they feed on a variety of plants and play a crucial role in pollination.
14. House Wren
Scientific name: Troglodytes aedon
House wrens are one of the most common types of small birds with long beaks in North America. They are evenly distributed across the country and seen in wild and urban areas alike.
These small birds have plump bodies and cinnamon-brown plumage. Their beaks are shorter compared to other birds on this list but still long enough to dig for food in tree hollows.
These birds are territorial and typically solitary, except for the breeding season when they can be found in pairs.
House wrens feed on cicadas, caterpillars, and bees, while nestlings mostly feast on crickets and grasshoppers.
15. Rufous-Tailed Jacamar
Scientific name: Galbula ruficauda
Endemic to the New World, the rufous-tailed jacamars are some of the most beautiful small birds with long beaks in Mexico and South America.
The colorful plumage is green on the back and orange on the underside. Their beaks are black, almost straight, and about two inches long. Adults typically grow to ten inches long regardless of gender.
Rufous-tailed jacamars are found in moist habitats, such as streamsides, river banks, and flooded grasslands. However, they can also inhabit scrublands, forests, and savannas.
These small birds feed on insects, butterflies, and larvae found inside trees.
16. Red Crossbill
Scientific name: Loxia curvirostra
Found throughout the northern hemisphere, red crossbills are some of the most common small birds with long beaks in the world.
A distinctive trait is that the beaks are not only long but also crossed since each side of the bill is curved in the opposite direction.
This trait gives the birds a peculiar aspect, but the bill actually has a functional role.
These birds feed exclusively on conifer seeds, and their specialized bills allow for easy opening and seed extraction from the cone.
Red crossbills are social birds about the size of mid-sized finches. They live in flocks and are non-migratory in North America, occupying the northern boreal and high-altitude coniferous forests.
17. Slender-Billed Scimitar Babbler
Scientific name: Pomatorhinus superciliaris
This non-migratory bird is one of the smallest birds with long beaks in Asia.
It inhabits the area between the Himalayas and north Vietnam and is characterized by a long, downcurved beak that can reach inside flowers to drink nectar.
Nectar, however, is not the only food source for this passerine bird.
The slender-billed scimitar babbler also hunts on the ground and feeds on larvae, beetles, and other insects.
Other scimitar babblers also have long beaks, but they don’t have bills quite as long or curved as this species.
18. Brown Creeper
Scientific name: Certhia americana
Also known as the American treecreeper, this small songbird is the only member of the treecreeper family native to North America.
They live in coniferous and mixed forests, their range expanding from Alaska to Canada and into the western United States – where they are one of the small birds with long beaks in the Michigan area.
Brown creepers are tiny birds, generally under five inches long. Males typically have a longer bill than females, but both genders sport thin, curved, and long beaks for their body size.
These beaks allow them to break tree bark and catch invertebrates, such as arthropods and insects that live inside tree holes or hollows. Brown creepers also eat seeds, fruits, and some vegetables.
Scientific name: Rhynochetos jubatus
Although bluish-grey, the Kagu birds are often described as small white birds with long beaks due to their pale hue.
Endemic to the dense mountain forests of New Caledonia, this bird is mostly famous for its gorgeous crest rather than the beak.
Nevertheless, the long, red beak and legs provide a striking contrast with the almost white plumage.
The bird is larger than other small birds on this list, being more of a mid-sized bird. Yet, at 22 inches tall, it is still smaller than a chicken.
The beak is an evolutionary adaptation, enabling them to fish snails out of their shells. Kagus also eat arthropods and insects.
20. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
A non-native and invasive species in the USA, the European starlings have become common small birds with long beaks in PA and numerous other states.
Endemic to Europe, this beautiful bird grows up to 9 inches long. Its beautiful plumage has a velvet-like texture, mixing shades of dark green, petrol blue, yellow, and dark gray.
The long and robust beak is yellow, complementing the brown legs and pale yellow spots on the feathers.
European starlings use their beaks for prying and open-bill probing techniques that enable them to access foods protected by shells or hard skins.
Among their preferred foods, we can mention fruits, seeds, as well as earthworms, arthropods, and insects.