Do Birds Have Teeth?

Snow Goose teeth tomia Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Snow Goose Beak and Tomia

If I had thought about the answer to that question when I was five, I would have said yes, most definitely. At that time, our family was living on a lake in north central Florida. A friend’s unruly pet goose chased me home, nipping my bottom all the way to our front stoop!

The jagged points in the serrated-edge jaw of the Snow Goose are not called teeth because teeth are defined as having an enamel coating. There is a special word for the points and they are called tomia. During the Mesozoic era birds had teeth. Over time, birds developed specialized beaks suited to their diets. Bird beaks do the job teeth and lips once did. The Snow Goose’s tomia are not as tough as teeth but are perfectly suited to slicing through slippery grass.

The super graphic below, found on wiki, illustrates types of beaks and how the different shapes relate to the bird’s diet and foraging habits.

Wiki Bird Beak Graphic copy


6 thoughts on “Do Birds Have Teeth?

  1. If you’re interested in beaks, there’s an interesting book, The Beak of the Finch, that describes how beaks evolved differently on the various Galåpagos Islands because of the available foods.


    1. Thank you David for suggesting the book. I have read about adaptive radiation and learned more about it after attending two fantastic lectures, both at the Arnold Arboretum. Ned Friedman, the Director, gave an outstanding lecture titled, “A Darwinian Look at Darwin’s Ancestors,” and later that year Robert Robichaux, from the University of Arizona, presented “Restoring Hawaii’s Marvels of Evolution,” also outstanding!

      The following are links to previous posts that I hope you find interesting. Thanks again for writing David.

      Silversword Alliance:
      What is Adaptive Radiation:
      New Director’s Series at the Arnold Arboretum:


    1. Wouldn’t that be funny to see an army of birds shoveling Allen–we could say that they are earning their keep for all the pounds of bird food consumed this year!


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