The world’s longest-billed bird is the sword-billed hummingbird, which has a bill that is longer than its own body. Its bill can be up to 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) long, while its body is only 13 to 14 centimeters (5.1 to 5.5 inches) long. How does this bird eat with such a long bill? Here are some ways that the sword-billed hummingbird adapts to its environment in the Andes.
- Flowers that match its bill: The sword-billed hummingbird mainly drinks nectar from flowers that have long tubes that fit its bill. One of these flowers is a kind of passionflower that has a tube of about 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long. The sword-billed hummingbird can get the nectar at the end of the tube with its long bill and tongue, while other hummingbirds cannot.
- Neck that can bend: The sword-billed hummingbird has a neck that can move its bill in different directions when it eats. It can hold its bill horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, depending on how the flower is positioned. It can also turn its head up to 90 degrees to the side, which helps it reach flowers that grow sideways or upside down.
- Muscles that are strong: The sword-billed hummingbird has muscles in its jaw and tongue that are powerful and fast. It can open and close its bill and stretch and pull back its tongue quickly. It can lick the nectar up to 15 times per second, which is faster than most other hummingbirds. It can also use its bill and tongue to catch small insects, which give it protein and other nutrients.
- Feet that can scratch: The sword-billed hummingbird has a special way of using its feet to clean and groom its head and neck. This is because its bill is too long to reach these parts of its body, unlike most other birds. It can also use its feet to remove parasites or dirt from its bill.
The sword-billed hummingbird is a wonderful example of how nature can create extreme features to suit different habitats. It is also a pretty and charming bird that attracts many people who love birds and photography. However, it is endangered by the loss and fragmentation of its habitat due to cutting down trees and farming. It is important to save and protect the Andean forests and the variety of life they support.
image credits –
By Alejandro Bayer Tamayo from Armenia, Colombia – Ensifera ensifera (Pico de sable), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44458411