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Hummingbirds That Don’t Pollinate

Hummingbirds That Don’t Pollinate

Ondrej Prosicky/

Every day, hummingbirds must drink nearly their body weight in nectar to survive. Most hover above their food by beating their wings up to 80 times a second and inserting their beaks into the tubes of flowers. As they consume their food, grains of pollen stick to their foreheads, pollinating the next flowers they encounter.

Scientists from the University of Connecticut recently identified 66 species of hummingbirds that may be harvesting nectar without pollinating flowers by using tiny toes to cling to a nearby branch rather than hovering above. These birds, which have a longer hallux claw to hold on to a stem and a shorter beak to get in closer, are able to save energy and obtain nectar from previously inaccessible flowers by poking into the side of the flower tube. This method, however, appears to prevent pollination from occurring.