A male Allen’s Hummingbird, Santa Cruz, California.


A male Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) near Santa Cruz, CA. Image credit: Shravans14 / CC BY-SA 4.0.
Since the 1830s, ornithologists have assumed that hummingbirds drink by capillary action (wicking), the passive process of a fluid rising into a narrow tube because of forces attracting the liquid to the tube’s solid internal surface.
A new study, led by Dr Alejandro Rico-Guevara from the University of Connecticut, debunks the ‘wicking theory’ and shows that the hummingbird’s tongue actually works as an elastic micropump.
Using high-speed cameras, Dr Rico-Guevara and co-authors filmed the tongue-nectar interaction in 18 hummingbird species, from seven of the nine main hummingbird groups throughout the Americas.
The results were published online today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
“A hummingbird’s tongue, which can be stuck out about the same length as its beak, is tipped with two long skinny tubes, or grooves,” Dr Rico-Guevara explained.
“Rather than wicking, the nectar is drawn into the tongue by the elastic expansion of the grooves after they are squeezed flat by the beak.”
The tongue structure is collapsed during the time it crosses the space between the bill tip and the nectar pool, but once the tip contacts the nectar surface, the supply of fluid allows the collapsed groove to gradually recover to a relaxed cylindrical shape as the nectar fills it.
via Hummingbird Tongues Work Like Elastic Micropumps, Study Shows | Biology | Sci-News.com.

My Wonderful Backyard Magpie, Melbourne.

Author: Jane Izzy,
Image Credit: Photograph byjaneizzyphoto · · From Pic of the Week
We have been blessed several times by wonderful backyard Magpie pets.
Two years ago Maggie was in our life, taming herself to us like a lost puppy dog and becoming an integral part of our lives as we were nearing the end with our beautiful, very sick, 18 year old cat.
Since Maggie left we have missed her so dearly but they are wild animals and come and go as they should.
We’ve had a couple since then at different times but never as tame, uninhibited or endearing as Maggie.
Until today…Today we were blessed at another critical personal time in our lives with Pinotti (pictured above).
He is so much like Maggie, running after me in the backyard like a puppy dog and following me up the back stairs.
He went, then came back with three friends, went again and then they all came back again and I found him waiting at the back door for me.
The others are pretty tame too but he is special. I can imagine him sitting on us, snuggling in a very short amount of time, like Maggie.
Cross fingers. It certainly made my very awful day turn into something very special.
Source: ABC OPEN: Wonderful backyard Magpie || From Project: Pic of the Week

Black Woodpecker is a big woodchipper, Finland

Big Chipper, Finland
Europe’s biggest woodchipper, the black woodpecker, tosses out woodchips from the nest hole he has been fashioning. The hole is a major excavation, probably extending 60cm down into the trunk.
The woodpecker’s chisel-like beak has a high-strength inner layer of bone and a flexible outer layer that helps reduce the shock of the vibrations. If the female finds the nest chamber to her satisfaction, she will lay two to eight eggs, which the pair take turns to incubate.
Image Credit: Photograph by Benjam Pöntinen
See more Images via Wildlife Photographer of the Year: unforgettable animal behaviour | Environment | The Guardian

The Ghost Birds of Norfolk Island.

Photo and article by Guy Dutson.
WITH ITS CONVICT ruins and connections to the HMS Bounty saga, Norfolk Island is perfectly suited to ghost stories.
When I visited in 2009 shearwaters (see below) crooned over the ruined ramparts of the Norfolk Island prison; a reminder of times past, when this small 34.6 km² South Pacific island heaved with incredible numbers of seabirds and a rich endemic birdlife.
Since Cook first sighted the island in 1774, a total of four endemic bird species and five subspecies have become extinct. Among the losses were the Norfolk Island kaka and pigeon, which were so common when members of the First Fleet landed in 1788 that they described them as pests.
The kaka, a separate species to the New Zealand parrot, only survived until the early 1800s and the pigeon, a subspecies of the New Zealand pigeon, until 1901.
Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands have by far the worst record of bird extinctions in Australia, which continues to this day.
The kaka and pigeon were exterminated by hunting and forest loss, but the latest wave of extinctions has been largely from rats and cats.
The last island thrush (guavabird) was seen in the 1970s and the white-chested white-eye is on the verge of extinction.
Now read on via The ghost birds of Norfolk Island – Australian Geographic.

Grey Fantail mid-flight over Melbourne.

A grey fantail captured mid-flight in Melbourne, Victoria.
The most restless of Australia’s fantails, Grey Fantails are almost continually on the move, constantly changing position when perched, the tail swished back and forth, fluttering about in the canopy of trees or darting out after flying insects.
They seem never to keep still. Despite their fluttering flight, they are nevertheless capable of relatively long-distance movements, with some regularly flying across Bass Strait.
Grey Fantails’ movements are particularly complex, with no general rule: birds in each different region have their own individual patterns of movement.
Image Credit: Photograph by ABC Open contributor honeycut
Source: Captured mid-flight – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Young Osprey prepares to Launch with its catch, Scottish Highlands.

An image of a young osprey has been named the overall winner of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards 2016.
Gordon Rae, from Lockerbie, in Dumfries and Galloway, took the photograph at Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore, in the Cairngorms.
The photographer gave his picture the title Undercover Osprey because it looked as if the juvenile bird of prey was in stealth mode.
Mr Rae said: “My winning image came by chance one morning when the light was in my favour really early on.
“This juvenile bird returning to the Highlands for the first time was having a real problem lifting clear of the water with such a huge fish and had sat back down to regain his composure.
I had taken images in the past almost like this but never just quite right, so to find this one in the camera, well you can just imagine the smile on my face.”
Source: In pictures: Scottish Nature Photography Awards – BBC News