Hummingbird tongues are tiny pumps

Sid is a freelance science journalist.

Hummingbird tongues are tiny pumps that suck up nectar—not merely passive strawlike structures as long thought, new research suggests. In a few studies of lab-reared hummers, scientists noted that the birds sometimes used capillary action—the tendency of a liquid to be pulled into a narrow space, even upward against gravity—to draw nectar into the long hollow tips of their cylindrical tongues. But a 5-year study of hummingbirds in the wild, including 18 species from seven of the nine major groups, found that the birds almost never relied on capillary action to collect néctar. Read more.