Another Way to the Nectar


Hummingbirds, with their wildly variable bills, are adapted to extract nectar from flowers, and in the process to transfer pollen between blossoms, like bees and other insects. But the endless diversity of birds has coughed up two genuses of birds that cheat. Flowerpiercers extract nectar from blossoms, too, but they go directly to the source, as it were.

Slaty Flowerpiercer Piercing a Flower

Slaty Flowerpiercer Piercing a Flower

Flowerpiercers bite the base of the flower, where the nectar pools, with their specially adapted bill, and extract the nectar there, bypassing the stamen and pistols, and pollen, the flower presents to the world. This Costa Rican Slaty Flowerpiercer is demonstrating its technique.

There are about 18 species of Flowerpiercers in the New World, members of the Tanager family. Like most tanagers, they are exceptionally handsome, acrobatic birds.

Glossy Flowerpiercer, Ecuador

Glossy Flowerpiercer, Ecuador

The white wing patch on the otherwise glossy black bird make this a very easy identification. It’s a fairly common resident of the mid-elevation zones in the West Andes. It’s not shy about hanging around humming bird feeders.

It’s more colorful and generalist cousin is the Masked Flowerpiercer,

Masked Flowerpiercer, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

Masked Flowerpiercer, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

Masked Flowerpiercers are enthusiastic clients of hummingbird feeders. And probably the easiest species to find. The red eye, black mask and electric blue body make the species unmistakeale. And they are remarkably acrobatic.

Exploring the World from a Different Angle

Exploring the World from a Different Angle

Lovely birds, fun to watch, and clear evidence of the amazing adaptability of avifauna.

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One thought on “Another Way to the Nectar

  1. I have some little yellow finches that do that here in the hills above Reno. They hang onto the big Palmeri penstemons and nip out the base. The flowers are still pretty, but the bumblebees are cheated. The hummingbirds don’t seem to care for those penstemons, except if there’s nothing else.

    aka Darlene Underdahl

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