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How do hummingbirds contribute to the ecosystem?

             -- Maggie


A Dear Maggie,

There is a strong interdependence between hummingbirds and certain flowers.  The hummingbird needs nectar and these flowers need to be pollinated.  While some flowers are structured so as to accommodate bees or butterflies, other flowers are structured to accommodate hummingbirds.   At least 150 North American flowering plants fall into this category.

The hummingbird's bill fits neatly into the long, tube-shaped flowers of these plants.  The tongue laps up nectar at the lowest place in the tube.  As the hummingbird takes in nectar, its forehead rubs against the stamens and pistils.

Hummingbird plants are not attractive to bees.  They usually have no platform on which to land. They, also, are usually red--a color bees have difficulty seeing--and they have little or no scent. 

Also the flowers are usually spaced apart so that they can accommodate the whirring wings of hummingbirds. 

The corolla of a hummingbird flower tends to be thick enough to resist the beaks of other birds that may want to pierce their way through to get nectar. 

Hummingbird flowers tend to bloom for a longer period of time than other flowers.  They bloom in the daylight hours.

Larry & Terrie



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