Softbill Info

Montane White Eyes

What is a Softbill?

The term “softbill” does not have anything to do with the density of the bird’s bill. A softbill bird’s beak is just as hard as any other bird’s beak. The origin of the term has to do with the texture of the food eaten.

“Softbills or Softbilled Birds” is a non-scientific term given to a large group of birds that mainly eat softer food such as fruit, plant parts, nectar, and insects. Generally, the term does not include raptors, waterfowl, gamebirds, or seedeaters such as parrots, doves, and finches.  Older avicultural books often call finches “softbills”, but, since they eat mainly seeds and are granivores, they are not true softbill birds.  Lories are sometimes classified as softbills, because their diet is much more fruit and nectar based than other parrots.  In discussions of softbills, shorebirds and gamebirds are generally included because of the housing and care similarities, but, again, are not true softbills.  Some predatory birds such as crows and frogmouths are considered to be softbills.  So the term “softbill” is confusing.

All true softbills are uncommon in private aviculture and typically only seen in zoos.  This website discusses many examples of the softbills that have been, and sometimes still are, available in aviculture.  Being a softbiller takes dedication and a love of a challenge because just finding softbill species can be tough.

Examples of:
Softbills Non-Softbills
Turacos Parrots – including Lories
Mousebirds Finches
Tanagers Canaries
Hornbills Raptors – hawks, eagles, owls
Thrushes Pheasants
Starlings & Mynahs Doves
Toucans Cranes & Storks
Corvids – crows, magpies Poultry – chickens, ducks, geese

Scientific Names of Families of Softbill Species:

  • Antbirds (Formicariidae)
  • Barbets and Tinkerbirds (Capitonidae)
  • Bee eaters (Meropidae)
  • Bell Magpies (Cracticidae)
  • Birds of Paradise (Paradisaeidae)
  • Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae)
  • Broadbills (Eurylaimidae)
  • Bulbuls Greenbuls (Pycnonotidae)
  • Cotingas Bellbirds (Cotingidae)
  • Crows and Jays (Corvidae)
  • Cuckoos and Shrikes (Campephagidae)
  • Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
  • Curassows Guans (Cracidae)
  • Drongos (Dicruridae)
  • Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)
  • Flowerpeckers (Dicaeidae)
  • Frogmouths (Podargidae)
  • Gulls and Terns (Laridae)
  • Hammerkops (Scopidae)
  • Helmet Shrikes (Prionopidae)
  • Honeycreepers (Coerebidae)
  • Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)
  • Hoopoes (Upupidae)
  • Hornbills (Bucerotidae)
  • Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
  • Icteridae (Ikteros)
  • Jacamars (Galbulidae)
  • Jacanas (Jacanidae)
  • Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
  • Laughing Thrush-Babblers (Timaliidae)
  • Leafbirds Fairy Bluebirds (Irenidae)
  • Manakins (Pipridae)
  • Megapods (Megapodiidae)
  • Mockingbirds and Thrashers (Mimidae)
  • Motmots (Momotidae)
  • Mousebirds (Coliidae)
  • Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
  • Old World Warblers (Sylviidae)
  • Orioles (Oriolidae)
  • Pittas (Pittidae)
  • Plovers (Charadriidae)
  • Pratincoles (Glareolidae)
  • Puffbirds (Bucconidae)
  • Rails and Crakes (Rallidae)
  • Rockfowl (Picathartidae)
  • Rollers (Coraciidae)
  • Sandgrouse (Pteroclidae)
  • Seriemas (Cariamidae)
  • Shrikes (Laniidae)
  • Starlings and Mynahs (Sturnidae)
  • Stone Curlew Thick knees (Burhinidae)
  • Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
  • Swallows (Hirundinidae)
  • Tanagers Euphonia (Thraupidae)
  • Thrushes (Turdidae)
  • Tinamous (Tinamidae)
  • Todies (Todidae)
  • Toucans and Aracaris (Ramphastidae)
  • Trogons (Trogonidae)
  • Troupials and allies (Icteridae)
  • Trumpeters (Psophiidae)
  • Turacos (Musiphagidae)
  • Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)
  • Wagtails (Motacillidae)
  • White eyes (Zosteropidae)
  • Woodhoopoes (Phoeniculidae)
  • Woodpeckers (Picidae)

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You may not copy, distribute, modify, reuse, or transmit any portions of this site for commercial or public use without written permission from the Davis Lunds. 

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Copyright 07/09  Kateri Davis