Hummingbirds take stab at rivals with dagger-tipped bills | Science News

Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Hummingbirds take stab at rivals with dagger-tipped bills

Males reaching the age of competitive courtship grow a sharp weapon

5:08pm, November 3, 2014

WEAPONS  Hummingbird bills can turn into dagger-pointed weapons among long-billed hermits (shown in flight).

View the video

Male hummingbirds that mate in the feathered version of singles bars grow sharp points on their bills, perfect for jabbing rivals.

That  little dagger point forms on the upper part of the bill as young male long-billed hermits (Phaethornis longirostris) reach adulthood, reports Alejandro Rico-Guevara of the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  And tests of those hummingbirds’ bills show that enhanced tips boost piercing power. Birds don’t grow horns or antlers. But a dagger-tipped bill may have evolved as male-versus-male weaponry, Rico-Guevara and Marcelo Araya-Salas of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces suggest October 18 in Behavioral Ecology.

“I know this is going to be controversial,” Rico-Guevara says. In recent years research in other hummingbird species has emphasized

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content