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Sticking Out a Tongue? A Great Adaptation!
Did you notice a skinny tongue that is longer than the hummingbird's beak? Sticking their tongues out all day is a way of life for hummingbirds. Their bills and tongues have evolved into fabulous feeding tools to help them reach deep into flowers for nectar.
feed by dipping their tongues into nectar at up to 12 times a second.
(Can your tongue do that?) Early researchers thought the tongue
was like a soda straw that sucked up nectar. But they later discovered
something different: Hummers lap up their sweet fuel.
Flower nectar is only part of what a hummingbird relies on for fuel. Insects are a very important part of a hummingbird's diet.
But scientists were long puzzled. Hummingbird beaks seemed to be shaped for getting nectar from flowers, not for hunting! Using high-speed photography, scientists recently discovered how a hummingbird snags insects. Their videos showed that the lower half of an open beak will bend downward, even though it has no joint. This also pulles the mouth (gape) open wider. When a hummer catches an insect on the wing in this way, it's called hawking.