About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How Long is a Hummingbird’s Tongue?

I know you wrote you leave your hummingbird feeder up until you haven’t seen a hummer for two weeks. I’m leaving my feeders up later than I usually would and I’m pleased that I’m getting these occasional fat hummingbirds like you said. I bought the saucer style feeder that you recommended as the best, but I don’t fill it all the way now. Can they still reach food or should I fill it to the top every time?

At the end of September in mid-Michigan, you’re not going to see the regular hummers that you enjoyed all summer. So it’s alright to fill your saucer feeder only half full. Hummingbirds actually have a long flexible tongue that is good for reaching into long flowers or the bottom of your feeder. The tongue itself isn't just muscle but includes a series of small bones folded accordion-like. When a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flexes its tongue muscles, these bones unfold and allow the hummer to extend its tongue almost an inch past the tip of the nearly inch-long bill. And believe it or not, a hummingbird's tongue can lap at the rate of 13 times per second.

I’m glad you’re still enjoying the hummingbirds. Keep the questions coming.