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High-Energy Pollen-carriers

Shimmering in the sunlight, hummingbirds dart from flower to flower among the tall rainforest treetops, drinking nectar.

These tiny birds survive by using tremendous amounts of energy. They burn energy swo fast that they have to feed every 10 to 15 minutes when they are active. And when they wake up after a night’s sleep, they are often near starvation.

A man who burned as much energy as a hummingbird does would have to eat 370 pounds of potatoes a day, just to keep going.

Why does a hummingbird use so much energy? for one thing, it flies fast-up to 40 miles an hour. This high speed helps keep it safe, so it can go about its business, in full daylight and looking flashy, without much fear of being eaten. Another reason huummingbirds use a lot of energy is the way they move their wings. When a hummingbird takes nectar from a flower, it doesn’t stand in front of the flower. It hovers in the air in front of it, holding its body upright, its wings beating in a figure-eight motion as much as hundred times a second.

While the hummingbird is hovering in the air in front of a flower this way, it sticks its long tongue into where the nectar is. Its tongue is divided into two tubes at the tip – so the hummingbird sucks up the nectar through a built-in double straw.

Different kinds of hummingbirds are suited to different types of flowers. A hummingbird that feeds at tube shaped flowers, for example, will have a very long stick-shaped bill, while one that feeds at shallower flowers will have a bill that is shorter.

From the hummingbird’s point of view, it is visiting the flower to drink nectar. From the plant’s point of view, the hummingbird is there to help it reproduce.

For a flowering plant to reproduce, pollen must be carried from the male part of one flower to the female part of another, often on different plants.

The hummingbird, as do many insects, sticks it’s bill deep into the flower to get at the nectar, it’s head and body rub against the pollen inside. Then, as the hummingbird flies off to visit other trees, the pollen that has stuck to it will be rubbed off onto other flowers and will fertilize them, so the tree will be able to reproduce.

Flowers that need hummingbirds attract them by providing the kind of high-energy nectar they require.

These flowers also dress the way hummingbirds like – in red. In fact, if you wore a red shirt into a rainforest, it probably would not be too long before a hummingbird flew up to check you out.