New York: Male hummingbirds use their long and sharp bills to not only probe flowers for nectar but also as a weapon while fighting over a mate, new research says.
The long-billed hermit, a species of hummingbird from South America, puzzled scientists, who noticed a dissimilarity between beaks in males and females of the species.
"Once a female is in a territory, the male will court her with elaborate displays and songs. So, in these species, males are constantly fighting to maintain the best territories," said Alejandro Rico-Guevara of the University of Connecticut.
The dissimilarity between the beaks of the female and male birds was earlier thought to have been due to feeding on different flowers.
The new study shows that during fights, the males with longer and pointier beaks had increased odds of winning in battles over territories.
"This study provides the first evidence of sexually dimorphic weapons in bird bills and stands as one of the few examples of male weaponry in birds," the researchers concluded.
The study was published in the journal Behavioural Ecology.