I did a little study on bird bills today. Seems that Mother Nature has the perfect design for every bill. The monstrous seed-cracking bill of the Northern Cardinal enables the bird to open and consume seeds much faster than the bill of a Tufted Titmouse or a Carolina Chickadee. Those tiny birds usually do not dine in; they prefer take-out: dashing in quickly, grabbing a seed, and running for cover. In the safety of a nearby bush, they position the seed with their feet and hammer it open with their pointed bills.
The Northern Cardinal’s bill is an amazing study in the optimal structure for seed cracking. The conical bill features jagged edges, one near the base of the bill, and one closer to the tip. These proud points along the bill’s edges provide the strategic advantage needed to eat about 3 times as fast as a titmouse or chickadee. I’ve seen many a bird bander wince or howl when a cardinal clamps its bill on a delicate finger. Once, I witnessed a cardinal that would not let go and was hanging upside down from the bander’s bleeding hand. I’d rather hold a chickadee!