8:18 pm

Hummingbird tongues

Over the last couple of days I've spent a fair bit of time with the binos watching the hummers at the feeder, especially just before dusk. Rufous, mostly, possibly an Anna's—it's kind of hard to tell the females apart. The reclining chair is a convenient viewing platform: sit and read, glance up, focus binos, watch the drinking and occasional aggro as they try to claim the feeder as MINE, MINE, ALL MINE!

Most of them dart in and out, but there's one (she was here last year too) that perches and takes prolonged drinks. I timed her. In the longest drink I timed she sucked it up for 9 straight seconds. In between, she takes breaks. (Well, wouldn't you after downing a pint?) And closely watching while she take her breaks has led to a discovery.

Hummingbirds lick their lips. Did you know?

tagged: | 2 Comments


  1. posted May 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hey there!
    We have both Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds, and we’ve had a few years to compare them. Here are a few of clues for telling even the females apart. The Annas are bigger. Still teeny, but bigger. Also, if you can see their backs, the Annas are green and the Rufous are orangey. Finally, the Annas’ tails are sort of squared off, while the Rufous’ come to a point. (I love this last. I know it only because from my seat at the table, my view of the hummers at the feeder is almost always of just the underside of their tails. It’s amazing what you can pick up from observing the little beggars. I didn’t realize they licked their lips! I’ll have to watch for it.)

  2. enjay
    posted May 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Heh… it takes binoculars to see the tongue. Just a little pale flicker at the end of the beak. I’ve definitely seen some all green backs, but there are also definitely Rufous males about, so I assume some of the females are Rufous as well.