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Swordbill Hummingbird

When I saw the beak of this incredible creature, the Swordbill hummingbird, I thought Gepetto had come to the woods of Ecuador to fashion its Pinocchio beak. I couldn't fathom why it should be so long, and how this creature could have survived the millennia. How could it feed its babies, build a nest, mate, or eat?

The question was partly answered when I saw one feed in a very long red flower in Ecuador. The other hummingbird's shorter beaks can not reach inside the flower for nectar, so its hidden reserve provides a food source specifically for them.

Darwin first originated his famous model of natural selection when he observed in the Galapagos that Finch bird beaks were different based on what they ate and how they captured food. One doesn't have to be a scientist to enjoy observing how perfect bird beaks are for their purpose - raptor beaks are sharp curving knives to rip flesh, ibis beaks poke into the marsh for crustaceans, pelicans beaks fish with nets, herons stab dinner, and so on. But I do believe this Swordbill wins the prize in my mind, for the most incredible adaptation.

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Susan Rouillier
Bird Photographer and Painter

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