Hummingbird Tongue Anatomy and Functions Explained!

A hummingbird’s beak contains a lengthy tongue, allowing it to consume three times its body weight in honey and insects each day.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown use for those little tongues: nectar-sucking pumps.

Hummingbird tongues don’t operate like straws after all, as long-held belief holds, according to Perkins.

Observations of birds sucking nectar through capillary action, which sucks liquid into small spaces against gravity, lent credence to the previous concept.

So in today’s content, we shall be looking at the morphology of hummingbird tongues and all you need to know.

Hummingbird Tongue

The forked tongue of the hummingbird is covered in hair-like extensions known as lamellae. As long as its bill is long, the tongue of a hummingbird can extend as far as its beak

Lamellae, the bird’s hair-like tongue extensions, are dipped into a nectar-rich flower by the bird’s long forked tongue during the bird feeds on the flower’s nectar.

Each time the tongue moves in and out of its bill for up to 12 seconds, it creates an audible sound.

It is possible for Mold and Fungi to form within a hummingbird feeder, which can infect the hummingbird’s tongue, causing the illness called Hummers Candidiasis.

The old theory held that hummingbirds consumed nectar by sucking it up with their beaks and slurping it down like juice.

In fact, scientists now know that a bird’s long, thin tongue conducts most of the work in extracting nectar from a bloom. Like a dog with a water bowl, a hummingbird licks nectar from flowers.

Hummingbird Tongue Anatomy

In addition to being extremely flat and without any tissue at the tip, a hummingbird’s tongue splits into two branches, much like a snake’s tongue. The tip of it is split in two.

It’s also worth noting that each of those tips out at the very end is fringed with this fringe, like you could see on the edge of a buckskin moccasin, with these small flaps, or lamellae, carved into the edge of each of those two tongue tips.

Because it is separated into numerous flaps, the tongue tip appears to be made of feathers. Additionally, these flaps are folded up at rest, forming a tubular shape for every single one of the tongue’s tips.

Moreover, while the tongue is not being used, the two tips of the tongue stick together, making the tongue appear to be a flat-pointed object in the bird’s mouth.

It has a long beak that looks like a tube, and we’ve always thought that its long beak and long tongue go together. In fact, their tongues are much longer than their beaks.

They can stick their tongue as far out of their mouth as their beak will allow them to extrude it. As a result, it’s far from their grasp when they need it to be. It needs to be within that narrow tubular item that we’ve always thought was related to their propensity of feeding inside long, skinny blossoms.

Hummingbird tongue length

The hummingbird’s tongue is quite long and looks like a straw, this is why some people may assume that the hummingbird’s tongue can function as a straw.

The hummingbird’s tongue is twice as long as the bill measuring approximately 8 inches long depending on the type of hummingbird.

This length is the reason the hummingbird’s tongue wraps around its brain when it recoils.

How Do Hummingbirds Use Their Tongues?

Well, they use them to pick up liquid in the form of nectar. The flower makes this sugary water nectar to entice the bird, so the bird sticks its head down into the flower and gets fed. But in return, the plant obtains these pollination services since the bird has shoved its head into the flower’s nectar-producing parts.

With their pollen-bearing appendages, the flowers have numerous ways of touching the bird’s face. A bird’s face gets jammed inside a bloom, which spreads pollen to other flowers on its way to the next. As a result, it’s sort of like a transaction. Everyone has benefited in some way from the situation.

How Does Humming Bird Tongue Work?

Hummingbird tongues function as small pumps, according to a five-year study of 18 species of hummingbirds.

Researchers used slow-motion videos to determine that the flat tips of hummingbird tongues open as they reach the nectar.

As a result, nectar is drawn into a reservoir on the tongue, where it is eventually squeezed into the bird.

According to principal researcher Alejandro Rico-Guevara, the entire procedure is completed in less than a tenth of a second, according to the statement.

It appears that hummingbirds can eat via capillary action, but experts say that the pump-like approach provides three times as much nectar as capillary action alone, writes Perkins.

Do Humming Birds Use Their Tongues?

Hummingbird tongue

Yes, hummingbirds use their tongues for various purposes. The tongue of a hummingbird can extend as far as the length of its bill.

A nectar-rich bloom is dipped into the bird’s long, forked tongue, which is lined with hair-like extensions called lamellae. Up to 12 times a second, the tongue moves in and out of the bill.

The lamellae stretch outward when the tongue is within a flower or feeder tube. The tips of the bird’s tongue come together as the lamellae roll inward when it is pulled in by the bird. The nectar is kept in the mouth by doing this.

Whenever it’s not in use, the tongue curls up and over the head! An apparatus called the hyoid apparatus wraps its tongue around its skull, and the central portion is elastic so it can expand.

Hummingbird Tongue Stuck Out

An unretracted tongue indicates that the bird has been fed honey and fungal spores have grown on the bird’s tongue and/or gullet, making it difficult to swallow nectar.

Why Is Dead Humming Bird Tongue Out?

If a hummingbird dies with tongues stuck out is a rare occurrence but in case you see a hummingbird lying dead with a tongue stuck out you should try to make sure that the hummingbird is actually dead.

The reason you need to check to make sure that the hummingbird is dead is that hummingbird when sleeping enter into a state called Topor, this state can make them appear dead.

It takes about 20 minutes for a hummingbird to recover from the state. If you see a hummingbird dead with a tongue stuck out, you may want to check that they are really dead and apply first aid treatment.

Hummingbird Tongue Facts

  • Their tongues are used to slurp nectar
  • To collect fluid, the small fork-like apparatus at the tip pop open. When the bill closes tightly, the tongue retracts, allowing the bird to take a drink of nectar. They do this 15-20 times per second.
  • The hummingbird’s tongue features “W” shaped grooves.
  • The tongue appears like a straw.
  • The hummingbird’s tongues function like a pump, not a straw.

Why Is Hummingbird Tongue Not Retracting?

If a hummingbird’s tongue not retracting is an indication of underlying health or a minor problem.

Another reason why a hummingbird’s tongue is not retracting is a situation where the bird has been fed honey and fungal spores have grown on the bird’s tongue and/or gullet, making it difficult to swallow nectar.

Is A Hummingbird’s Tongue Like A Straw?

No hummingbird’s tongue is not like a straw. The hummingbird tongue may look like a straw but it doesn’t function like one.

There are small mechanical pumps in their mouths. It is impossible for a hummingbird to use its tongue’s grooves as small straws since they do not reach the throat.

How Fast Does A Hummingbird Tongue Move?

Because of their extraordinary characteristics, hummingbirds are excellent models for evolutionary biologists. At a rate of 15 or 20 times per second, their tongues swoop in and out of flowers in a frenzied burst of activity.

Conclusion: Hummingbird Tongue: Anatomy and Functions

We have discussed hummingbird tongue morphology, how they feed using their tongues, and other useful information you needed is provided in this content as well.

If you have any more questions about hummingbirds’ tongues please drop them in the comment section.