My, how time flies when you are not having fun. Now...where was I?
Oh yes - rhynchokinesis - otherwise known as handy-bendy-beak syndrome. I have touched on this interesting curiosity before but what brought it back to mind was a couple of black tailed godwits feeding in the flooded fields on Holy Island the other day. The effect was not at all visible when watching the birds but a millisecond caught in a megapixel just happened to give a hint of it.
I came across a much better picture than mine here. (Steve Gale at North Downs and Beyond talks about blog envy - I know the feeling).
Many people assume that all birds beaks are solid, hard structures. Far from it - particularly in the longer billed waders like the godwits, curlew and snipe. Next time you find a dead one of these, I recommend that you explore this. If it's a bit stinky by the time you come across it, this will be when you realise that all that time spent carrying a pair of surgical gloves in your pocket was not wasted. The bill tip is not only softish and flexible but well supplied with sensory bits and pieces. (For more on this - see my earlier post here)
The New Naturalist book 'Waders' explains that the upper mandible can be raised or lowered independently of the rest of the bill. Thus you can have the tips only apart or the tips together with an open gap in the centre. Certainly, having a 'hinge' towards the tip of a long bill must give much better dexterity when picking up small prey items.
If you don't already carry a pair of surgical gloves at all times, rush out and get some.