Beak shape and nest material use in birds

Catherine Sheard*, Sally E Street, Caitlin Evans, Kevin Lala, Susan Healy, Shoko Sugasawa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of behaviour can both influence, and be influenced by, morphology. Recent advances in methods and data availability have facilitated broad-scale investigations of physical form and behavioural function in many contexts, but the relationship between animal morphology and object manipulation – particularly objects used in construction – remains largely unknown. Here, we employ a new global database of nest materials used by 5,924 species of birds together with phylogenetically-informed random forest models to evaluate the link between beak shape and these nest-building materials. We find that beak morphology, together with species diet and access to materials, can predict nest-material use above chance and with high accuracy (68-97%). Much of this relationship, however, is driven by phylogenetic signal and sampling biases. We therefore conclude that while variation in nest material use is linked with that of beak shape across bird species, much of this relationship is modulated by the ecological context and evolutionary history of these species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220147
Pages (from-to)20220147
Number of pages1
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1884
Early online date10 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship (grant no. BB/S01019X/1); the John Templeton Foundation (grant no. 60501); and the European Research Council (grant no. 788203). Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors.


Dive into the research topics of 'Beak shape and nest material use in birds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this