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Hummingbirds Use Their Delicate Beaks as Dagger-Like Weapons

Weighing just 6 gms, the Long-billed Hermit doesn’t seem like it would pose much of a threat to anything. But these hummingbirds are feisty fighters, and when the normally solitary males come together to attract females with their singing and then compete for a chance to mate, scuffles often break out. One male will approach another and try to chase him away from his singing perch, and then the two will dance around, bobbing their heads and snapping their beaks. As the confrontation escalates, the birds attempt to stab each other in the throat with their beaks, using them like little daggers.

The researchers confirmed that only male birds had the longer, pointier upper beaks, and that they developed them only as they transitioned into adulthood and were ready to start mating and competing with each other. The adult males’ beaks were also able to perforate a plastic sheet more easily than the females’ or the young birds’ beaks and, in real-world fights, the birds with the largest and pointiest beaks were indeed better able to defend their territory and gain more access to females for mating. All of this, er, points to the sharp-tipped beak evolving as a weapon for male-vs.-male combat, says Rico-Guevara, and makes it the “the first documented sexually dimorphic weapon in hummingbirds.”


Picture Credit : Google

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