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8 Birds With Big Mouths

Pelican demonstrating that its is a bird with a big mouth.

Are you curious about birds with big mouths? Birds come in all shapes and sizes, and some have distinctive features that set them apart. One such feature is a big mouth. These birds have mouths larger than average, which helps them catch and eat their prey.


Allissondias, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The potoo is the perfect pick if you are looking for a bird with an enormous mouth. These nocturnal birds are part of the Nyctibiidae family, which is related to nightjars and frogmouths. They are sometimes called “poor-me-ones” due to their haunting calls that can chill you to the bone.

Potoos are found in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. They are known for their massive mouths and stout figures. They come in several colours: white, grey, brown, burgundy, and reddish-orange. Some great potoos are monochrome, while others look tawny with mottled spots on their feathers.

One of the most interesting facts about potoos is their unique camouflage. They have a cryptic plumage pattern that makes them look like a broken branch or a dead tree stump. This camouflage helps them blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators.

Another fascinating feature of potoos is their huge eyes. As night-time hunters, their enormous eyes mean they have excellent night vision, allowing them to spot insects from their perch. Their huge mouths allow them to scoop up many flying insects, making them efficient predators.


European nightjar.
European nightjar, Derek Keats, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal or crepuscular birds in the family Caprimulgidae. Long wings, short legs, and short bills characterize them. These birds are known for their unique and haunting calls that can often be heard at night.

Nightjars are found worldwide except for polar regions and some islands. They are typically brown, grey, and black, which helps them blend in with their surroundings during the night.

One of the most distinctive features of nightjars is their large mouths. Their bills are short, but their gape is wide, allowing them to catch insects on the wing. They are also known for their large eyes, adapted to low-light conditions.

Nightjars are primarily insectivores, feeding on various flying insects such as moths, beetles, and ants. They are also known to feed on spiders and other small invertebrates.

One of North America’s most common nightjar species is the Common Nighthawk. This bird is known for its erratic flight and angular wings, making it unmistakable. It is also known for its distinctive “peent” call, which can often be heard at dusk and dawn.



Pelicans are a large water bird genus that comprises the family Pelecanidae. They are characterized by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped-up contents before swallowing. Pelicans have predominantly pale plumage, except for the brown and Peruvian pelicans.

Pelicans fly over the water, spot a fish, and then dive down to the surface, using their wings to slow their descent. Once they hit the water, they open their beaks and scoop up the fish and water into their pouch.


Hodgson's frogmouth.
Hodgson’s frogmouth panuruangjan/

Frogmouths are a family of birds that are known for their massive mouths and distinctive appearance. They are nocturnal birds that belong to the family Podargidae, which includes about 13 species. They are found in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.

One of the most well-known species of frogmouth is the Tawny Frogmouth. They are large, stocky birds measuring up to 53 cm in length. Tawny Frogmouths have broad, frog-like mouths and large owl-like heads. They are often mistaken for owls because of their appearance, but they are not related to owls.

Tawny Frogmouths are known for their excellent camouflage, which helps them blend in with their surroundings. They have a mottled grey-brown plumage that resembles tree bark, which makes them difficult to spot. They are also known for their distinctive calls, which are loud and booming.

Frogmouths are primarily insectivorous and feed on various insects, including moths, beetles, and grasshoppers. They also feed on small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Frogmouths are solitary birds, and they are usually found alone or in pairs.



If you’re looking for a bird resembling a dinosaur that seems to have been plucked from the primordial era, look no further than the shoebill. This bird is native to East Africa and is known for its enormous shoe-shaped bill, which can grow up to 9 inches long.

The shoebill is a very large, long-legged wading bird with a stork-like overall form. Based on this morphology, it has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes. The shoebill is a solitary bird that spends most of its time wading through swamps and marshes, searching for prey.

The shoebill’s diet consists mainly of fish, but it also eats small mammals, birds and reptiles, including small crocodiles. It is known for its unique hunting technique, which involves standing motionless for hours, waiting for prey to come within striking distance. When the shoebill does strike, it uses its powerful bill to grab its prey and swallow it whole.

Marabou Stork

Marabou stalk.

The Marabou Stork is a massive bird that can reach a height of up to 152 centimetres (4.99 feet) and a weight of 9 kg (20 lb). They have a wingspan of up to 3.7 meters (12 feet), making them one of the largest birds in the world. These birds are often referred to as the “undertaker bird” due to their somewhat ominous appearance.

One of the most striking features of the Marabou Stork is its large, scabby pink face. They also have a massive gullet sac that dangles from their neck, which they use to store food. Despite their somewhat grotesque appearance, these birds are fascinating creatures that play an important role in their ecosystem.


Southern yellow billed hornbill.
Southern yellow billed hornbill, ozkanzozmen/

Hornbills are a group of birds that are known for their large bills and casques. These birds are found in Africa and Asia and are known for their unique appearance. They are a popular species among bird watchers and photographers due to their striking appearance.

The largest and most massive species of hornbill is the southern ground hornbill. This bird can weigh up to 6.3 kg and has a wingspan of about 180 cm. The smallest species is the black dwarf hornbill, which is only 99.1 g in weight and 32 cm in length.

Hornbills are omnivorous and feed on various foods, including fruits, insects, and small animals. They are also known to have a unique nesting behaviour. The female hornbill seals herself inside a tree cavity using a mixture of mud, droppings, and fruit pulp. The male bird then brings her food through a small opening in the cavity until the chicks are ready to hatch.

One of the most distinctive features of hornbills is their large bills. The bills are used for various purposes, including feeding, fighting, and courtship displays. In some species, the casque on top of the bill is used to amplify the bird’s calls. The shape and size of the bills vary between species and can be used to identify different types of hornbills.



The ostrich’s mouth is not only big but also very strong. Their beaks are designed to crack open tough nuts and seeds. They have a flat, wide beak perfect for scooping food from the ground. They also have a long, muscular tongue that they use to grab food and move it around in their mouths.

Despite their big mouths, ostriches are quite picky eaters. They prefer to eat plants and only eat insects and small animals if they’re desperate. Their unique digestive system allows them to extract water from their food, which means they can go without drinking water for several days.