Readers’ wildlife photos

Biologist John Avise provides our weekly ducks on Sunday, but he’s also in the past sent a lot of other photos, which I’ll put up at intervals. Today’s set features—wait for it—bird tongues. John’s notes and IDs are indented.

Avian tongues:

Birds seldom stick out their tongues, so it’s rare to get photos of this important anatomical feature.  But every once in a while I’ve gotten lucky in that regard.  So, here are several photos of avian tongues, some of which show surprising anatomical details.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).  Note the fierce backward-projecting prongs that help to impale mice and keep them from squirming out of the oral cavity during the swallowing process:

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).  Hummingbirds don’t suck nectar as through a straw.  Rather, they lap nectar from flowers by rapid tongue thrusts out and in.  Note the length of this bird’s tongue and how it closely matches the length and curvature of the bill itself:

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), saying “nyah, nyah”:

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalia):

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna).  A very thin and sharply pointed tongue must help this bird to extract snails (a favorite food) from their shells:
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis).  Again, backward-projecting prongs help keep food in:

18 Comments

  1. Joe Routon
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Fascinating! Great photos!

  2. Joe Routon
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Fascinating! Amazing photos!

  3. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks, really interesting information about the tongues of predatory birds!

  4. GBJames
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Really cool.

  5. jezgrove
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Just… Wow!

  6. Posted October 21, 2020 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    What a theme! That goose tongue is my favorite. Imagine if it were hanging out of the side.

  7. Posted October 21, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Wow, John, those are excellent! And they bring humor as well. Thanks!

  8. rickflick
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    “Hummingbirds don’t suck nectar as through a straw.” Not long ago there was a post that described feeding details. Hummers have a double tubular tongue which uses capillary action to help get nectar.

    https://www.pnas.org/content/108/23/9356

  9. Ben Curtis
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks – great photos.

  10. Posted October 21, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Those backward-facing prongs are scary. I wonder if those giant prehistoric birds had them so as to prevent early hominids from depriving them of a meal?

  11. Dragon
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I never knew about avian tongues. Very interesting.

  12. kathy
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Jaw-dropping photos! Made my morning.

  13. ploubere
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I must admit I’ve never given thought to bird tongues. Nature is endlessly fascinating. Thanks for the great photos.

  14. Debra Coplan
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the great photos and information!

  15. Posted October 21, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Never knew about tongue prongs. You learn something new every day on this site. Thanks for the great photos.

  16. Posted October 21, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Marvelous!

  17. Posted October 21, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Great photos and informative narrative. Thanks!

  18. Posted October 21, 2020 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Makes me wonder whether carnivorous dinosaurs had backward-pointing tongue prongs.

    And on the other hand, why don’t non-avian predators (alligators, wolves) have them?


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