Hummingbird Tongue
Video | Journal

How does the hummingbird's unique tongue get liquid into its mouth? This video reveals how hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers and feeders.



Theresa LeMire
Hummingbirds: No Red Dye
Russ Thompson

Russ Robertson

Long, Forked Tongue

Lapping Liquid Nectar Stretching and Extending
A hummingbird's tongue can stick out as far as its bill is long. The bird dips its long, forked tongue lined with hair-like extensions called lamellae into a nectar-rich flower. The tongue flicks in and out of the bill, up to 12 times a second. When inside a flower or feeder tube, the forked tongue separates and the lamellae extend outward. As the bird pulls its tongue in, the tips come together and the lamellae roll inward. This action traps the nectar within the tongue. When it's not in use, the tongue wraps under the jaw, behind and over the head! The very long tongue is wrapped around its skull on a special structure called the hyoid apparatus, and the middle part is stretchy so it can extend.
Hummingbirds: No Red Dye