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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Examining The Hummingbird Tongue

Hummingbirds are very small birds with a high metabolism. A great deal of energy is expended when flying, so they must feed almost constantly. Hummingbirds can consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. They usually feed on nectar and insects.

Hummingbirds actually have a long flexible tongue that is good for reaching into long flowers for food. To bring nectar up to their mouth, hummingbirds' tongues acts like a fluid trap, rather than a straw.

Recent research shows that the tongue tip is a liquid-trapping device that changes configuration and shape dramatically as it moves in and out of fluids. Hummingbird tongues are forked at the tip and covered with feathery structures called lamellae that help to form grooves on either side of the tongue.

The video shows that, upon entering nectar, the tongue tips spread apart and the lamellae, unfurl to collect nectar. When pulled out of the liquid, the split tongue tips zip back up and the lamellae roll inward, to trap nectar inside.
Related Articles:
Source: The hummingbird tongue is a fluid trap, not a capillary tube - http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/04/27/1016944108.abstract

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