Hummingbird Tongues and the Scientific Process

Hummingbird dricking from red flower: WikiMedia

Green Violet-ear — Panama

Hummingbirds are a favorite creature for Creationists to study. They are so small, so quick, and have so many specialized features, they make it particularly easy to see our Genius Designer.
Plus, they’re beautiful. When I’m talking to someone who lives where they can put out a feeder, it’s common for them to stop mid-sentence to focus their attention on these tiny flying gems.

In fact, there are so many articles already written about hummingbirds I never bothered to add my own before (you can check out the best in the footnotes).

But, I ran into a new study of how their tongues work and had to share it with you!

Hummingbird drinking from pink flower: WikiMedia

Blue-tufted Starthroat — Argentina

“Since 1833, scientists thought that hummingbird tongues used capillary action — a phenomenon in which liquid flows through narrow areas, even working against gravity — to slurp up floral nectar. Researchers got this intriguing (but wrong) idea because the birds have long groves on their tongues…” Yahoo News, August 20, 2015

It wasn’t until 2011 that some scientists were willing to question what had been assumed for so long. They realized capillary action wasn’t quick enough for this to be the real way hummingbirds got their food.

So, they put together their own study and discovered the truth: hummingbird feeding is far more complicated than anyone had thought!

The Conversation website has the best article to find out what is going on. It’s written for non-scientists by the study conductors themselves. In fact, it’s so good I can get away with just giving you the highlights and sending you over.

  • Hummingbirds stick their tongues in and out of flowers to drink nectar 15 to 20 times a second!
  • To study their drinking action, the scientists designed a transparent artificial flower so they could record in slow motion
CS4K-Hummingbird-drinking-purple

Violet-headed Hummingbird — Costa Rica

What they saw was the hummingbirds squishing their tongues flat with their beaks between licks. A tiny amount of nectar from the last sip holds the tongue together until the right moment. It only springs open when the tongue touches the nectar, pulling the sweet fluid up the tongue.

One of the coolest things is, in order to understand what they were seeing, these biologists had to ask for help. It took “an expert in fluid dynamics” to explain what the compression and sudden opening of the tongue was allowing the hummingbirds to do.

WikiMedia

Snowcap Hummingbird — Costa Rica

No one thinks these tiny creatures are that smart. They sure didn’t figure out this mechanism that would allow them to live on sugary flower water for themselves! Nor are the flowers they feed from wise enough to explain this method to their feathered friends.

And don’t tell me mutations are the masterminds behind this ability.

In fact, the only mention of evolution in The Conversation article is at the end where they speculate about how this understanding could help us study the coevolution of hummingbirds and their favorite flowers.

Now really, is this notion science or wishful thinking?

As for me, I’m going to glorify and worship the One who really is smart enough to program these tiny marvels and give them everything they need to thrive and fill our world with beauty and wonder!

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, Song of Solomon 2:12 

Lots More About Hummingbirds:

Answers in Genesis for Kids:

 WikiMedia

Rufous-crested Coquette — Panama

David Rives is particularly interested in hummingbirds. He even hosted a video in 2014 on them! You can check out the best articles at his website (both with videos to go alongside):

You can purchase the DVD Refracted Glory Marvels in Every Way hummingbird documentary from Rives Creation Superstore to support him, or buy it from Answers in Genesis which sends me an affiliate commission to help keep my website going. (I don’t know which I’d choose either!)

The Creation Club is a cool website Rives also set up for lots of us independent creationists to contribute to (they regularly pull from my archives). Benjamin Owens, who produced and did the research for Refracted Glory, wrote an article about:

More articles for grownups from Answers in Genesis: