Originally Posted by ChrisKten
I wasn't (and still aren't) sure where to put this, but settled for this sub-forum.
I've looked online, but I keep reading conflicting opinions on this, is it "Beak" or "Bill"? It seems that they are interchangeable at times; or that people use the first one that pops into their head.
I've read that if a bird has either a thin, weak, flat, beak, or is a member of the Pigeon Family, it's a "Bill". But then why is a Crossbill not called a Crossbeak, and why is a Grossbeak not a Grossbill.
I've also read that if a bird eats meat (Raptors, Corvids) it has a "Beak", otherwise it has a "Bill".
Is it really this confusing?
Not so confusing, actually. Here’s how the OED defines ‘bill’—“The horny ‘beak” of certain birds, especially when slender, flattened, or weak”. And here is how it describes the differences in usage between ‘beak’ & ‘bill’:
“In Ornithology, ‘beak’ is the general term applicable to all birds; in ordinary language ‘beak’ is always used of birds of prey, & generally when striking or pecking is in question; ‘beak’ & ‘bill’ are both used of crows, finches, sparrows, perching birds & songsters generally, ‘bill’ being however more frequent; ‘bill’ is almost exclusively used of hummingbirds, pigeons, waders, & web-footed birds”.
At least some of this makes sense to me—I don’t think I’d ever speak of a snipe’s or hummingbird’s ‘beak’, for example, or of a hawk's 'bill'.