Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Hummingbird's Tongue

Hummingbird tongue
DPR suggested that I check out Via Negativa to read Dave's post on hummingbirds. It's a great post, and I highly recommend it. I learned something I had always wondered about-- how hummingbirds eat. It is easy to look at their bill and assume that they must use it as a straw. Certainly the way they dip into the feeders to drink the sugar water would suggest such behavior. But, as Dave points out, hummingbirds drink with their tongues. He writes,
"Contrary to popular belief, a hummingbird's bill is nothing like a drinking straw. It opens just wide enough to allow the bird to lap up nectar with its brushy-tipped tongue, which zips in and out at the rate of thirteen times per second. The hummingbird tastes little of the flowers, other than their relative concentration of sugar, and he smells nothing at all." How interesting. It also explains this photo I took (before the new camera). I wondered what was coming out of the hummingbird's bill. I thought it might be a stream of nectar. It is most likely its tongue.

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