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Ancient Buzzing: German site yields early hummingbird fossils

Excavations in a clay pit in southwestern Germany have yielded two tiny treasures. They're the first fossils of hummingbirds from the Old World and, by far, the oldest ones unearthed anywhere.

Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly forward, backward, and sideways, as well as hover for sustained periods. Those aeronautical talents, along with long bills and even longer tongues, enable the avian acrobats to drink nectar from small, tubular flowers. Although there are more than 300 living hummingbird species, these birds are found only in North and South America, says Gerald Mayr, an ornithologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany.

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