“I am grateful to Hans Peeters for pointing out a feature I saw but had not recognised – Rhynchokinesis. When I posted a video of a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) HERE (see second half of the video for the behaviour), Hans commented: ‘Amar, you didn’t point out the best part – that in your wonderful little video one can clearly see how the TIP of the maxilla (upper mandible) can be raised or flexed upward, independent of the rest of the bill. A perfect alligator forceps for grabbing worms and such buried deep in the mud. Very nice, and rarely demonstrated!’
“Rhynchokinesis is the ability possessed by some birds to flex their upper mandible and is associated with the ‘deep probing feeding method’. See examples: HERE.
“For the snipe, this allows it to open just the tip of its bill, when the bill is stuck in the mud foraging. An elegant mechanism to get prey.
“More scientific details in this article: Sora M. Estrella, José A. Masero. The use of distal rhynchokinesis by birds feeding in water. The Journal of Experimental Biology 210, 3757-3762, 2007 LINK.
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
2nd March 2013
Location: Malim Nawar Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with pond/lakes, wetlands, fish farming