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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creature Feature: Sword-billed Hummingbird.

After doing the last few entries without a spinal cord, here's another vertebrate. This also satisfies your RDA of cuteness, so brace yourselves:


Source: RedOrbit. 

The little fellow up there is a Sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera). It is native to the more northern parts of South America including Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela. Like all hummingbirds, swordie up there feeds entirely on nectar. It likes long-corolla'd species such as Passiflora mixta.

Let's be fair: Hummingbirds are pretty weird already. They are the only birds capable of hovering and flying backwards. They have the highest metabolism of all vertebrates. Despite both of the above, some hummingbirds have been able to migrate. Basically, they have evolved to be pollinating insects with spinal cords.

This has not even touched on the crazy, crazy bills some hummingbirds have to drink their weights in nectar. Some hummingbirds, like the sword-billed hummingbird up above, have bills so specialized that they are designed to get at the nectar of only one particular sort of flower.

Yes, that bill IS to scale.
 

The Sword-billed Hummingbird has the dubious honor of being the only bird with a bill longer than its body. It has an unusually long tongue to match.  So long is this bill (5.5 cm for a 14 cm bird) that the hummingbird cannot preen itself with its bill; it must instead use its cute little feet. Its long bill is specifically designed to stick into long, slender flowers, but y'know what? I'll let your dirty mind tell you exactly why I cannot finish that sentence.

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