The evolution of features that enhance an organism's performance in one activity can adversely affect its performance in another. We used an experimental approach to document a trade–off associated with the evolution of the long hook at the tip of the bill of birds belonging to the genus Diglossa (flowerpiercers). In Diglossa, the more derived flower–robbing nectarivorous species have maxillae (upper jaws) that terminate in enlarged curved hooks. The ancestral frugivorous species have maxillae with relatively small hooks. We mimicked bill evolution by clipping the terminal bill hook of nectarivorous Cinnamon–bellied Flowerpiercers (Diglossa baritula) to resemble the frugivorous condition. We found that birds with experimentally shortened bills ingested fruit more efficiently, but had a reduced ability to rob flowers. Birds with intact bills, by contrast, were good flower robbers but poor frugivores. The evolution of a hooked bill endowed flowerpiercers with the ability to efficiently pierce flowers and extract nectar, but hindered their efficiency to feed on fruit.