Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bird Tongues!

I made a post earlier this fall that examined different bird feet. The problem was, I hadn't become fascinated by them until I was able to examine the feet in the pictures, and so they're seldom actually in good focus. I now face this problem with bird tongues. Tongues are funny things on their own, even down to their spelling. They're kind of gross, but are also vitally important to our civilization (I'm referring to language). It's the same way with birds, although there is much more variation between the species, as there is between their feet and their feathers.
Here are some blurry bird tongues I've captured so far. I'd love to hear back from y'all and learn about some other bird tongues you've seen on your adventures.

I've often wondered how many birds, or for that matter animals in general, actually taste their food with depth and/or enjoyment. I imagine there is a sort of base recognition, such as 'sweet' or 'bitter', but does this go beyond an instinctive proclivity towards certain foods? This Red-Tailed Hawk seems to have the right equipment for advanced tasting, which would go well with his diverse diet.

This White-Crowned Sparrow was hitting the high notes when I took the picture. I know nothing about it, but I'd imagine that the Sparrow tongue is used primarily for vocal variation than for taste. It's interesting to note that a Sparrow song has lots of different notes in it, but the tongue barely extends halfway into the beak. The Red-Tailed Hawk tongue is long and wide, but a Hawk's call is relatively harsh and monotone. It's like with a violin string versus a bass string: longer and fatter offers more and deeper noise, but less versatility and frequency.

I have no idea how the Flicker's tongue pertains to its call (and would love to hear more about it from those of you who do), but it certainly does a pretty good job of snatching ants out of even the most secure nooks and crannies.