Bees are more important for agricultural purposes, but for my money, the hummingbird is the world's sickest pollinator. Here's why.
This is not meant to disparage bees, which can pollinate thousands of flowers per day, create honey, and, according to experts, are the world’s smartest bug. What I am here to talk about today is just how great hummingbirds are. Here are some of the ways in which hummingbirds are truly sick pollinators (and birds, in general).
Hummingbirds pollinate flowers no other animal can.
Hummingbirds boast long, thin beaks, which allow them to get deep into the interiors of flowers that even large bees may not be able to spelunk. Whether the hummingbird evolved to take advantage of these flowers or the flowers evolved to take advantage of the hummingbirds (or both), the fact remains that hummingbirds can tackle the most forbidding of flowers.
They collect pollen in very adorable ways.
Bees spread pollen when it sticks to the hairs on their bodies and rubs off on other flowers. Good method! But hummingbirds are even cuter. They transfer pollen when it sticks to their beaks or their adorable tiny foreheads. Look at that little guy! Haha!
They don’t damage flowers.
Lots of animals pollinate flowers, but the larger ones can sometimes cause unexpected damage. For example: Lemurs, rodents, and possums all serve as pollinators, mostly by getting pollen stuck in their fur, but these bigger, heavier animals can sometimes damage a plant. Not hummingbirds! Hummingbirds are delicate creatures that rarely land; their feet are tiny and weak, so they primarily just hover next to flowers while eating. How gentle!
They have some extremely sick names.
Hummingbird species are separated into clades, which are basically different categories of birds. Most animals are divided into clades; this is not unusual. What makes hummingbird clades so fun is that they’re named for how the hummingbird looks, and hummingbirds look extremely cool. The bird above, for example, is in the “Brilliant” clade. Other clades include “Topaz,” “Mango,” “Gem,” and “Emerald.”
They have insane beaks like this.
This right here is the sword-billed hummingbird, which lives in mountainous regions of western South America. It is the only bird species to have a bill longer than its body. It usually feeds on flowers with very deep chambers, but it can also, despite its very long bill, feed from short feeders, too. The Internet Bird Collection has some great videos of this hummingbird if you’re interested, and we assume you are interested, so go check it out.
Hummingbirds can imitate songs.
It’s not widely known, but hummingbirds are very vocal and can be territorial and aggressive when around food sources. They’re one of only a few species that have shown the capability of “vocal learning,” which is the ability to imitate new vocalizations. Parrots and songbirds are the only other bird species to have this ability, a skill that’s shared with only humans, whales, dolphins, seals, elephants, and bats. Not even non-human primates can do this!
In conclusion, hummingbirds are extremely good birds and awesome pollinators. Thank you.