Hummingbirds Don’t Sip Nectar With Tongues!

hummingbird, bird, sip nectar

Photo via Flickr.

Hummingbirds have a perfect, long narrow bill to fit inside flowers and sip nectar.  But, scientists researched hummingbirds with high speed cameras and discovered they don’t sip nectar like a straw with their tongue.

It is hard for me to believe because I always thought hummingbirds sipped nectar with their tongues like a long straw.  The shape of hummingbirds bill is a perfect long, thin shape to get at the nectar inside of flowers.  I now know that instead of sipping nectar, hummingbirds actually use their tongues to pick up the nectar.

Hummingbirds Don’t Sip Nectar

I was surprised about this because I always thought they sipped nectar.  Recently researchers figured out that instead of sipping nectar (like drinking with a straw), they actually pick it up with their tongue.

Their tongue is forked and as their tongue moves rapidly into the nectar it opens up.  Then it quickly closes back up, trapping the nectar in the tongue.  The tongue then carries the nectar back into the bird’s mouth.

sip nectar, hummingbird, tongue

An extended hummingbird tongue.  It becomes forked when it enters the nectar.  Photo via Flickr.

Their tongues move super, super fast!

They make 15 – 20 licks of nectar a second!  That is fast!  Since their tongue moves so fast every second they are able to eat a lot of nectar in a very short amount of time.

They drink up to two times their body weight of nectar each day

They use a ton of energy by flying around and having such a fast metabolism. This fast metabolism means that they need to eat a lot of food to replace all of the energy they burn by flying, breathing and just living.

During the course of a day a tiny hummingbird consumes a lot of nectar, up to two times their body weight.  That is a lot of food to eat in a day.  Imagine if you ate your weight in any kind of food every day!

For more information, read about the 4 common hummingbirds of the Rocky Mountains or common birds of the Rocky Mountains or read 7 facts about hummingbirds.