Wisconsin Native Birds

Ornithophily or bird pollination is the pollination of flowering plants by birds. This co-evolutionary association is derived from insect pollination, entomophily, and is particularly well developed in some parts of the world, especially in the tropics and on some island chains.

The association involves several distinctive plant adaptations forming a "pollination syndrome". Birds involved in ornithophily tend to be specialist nectarivores with brushy tongues, long bills, capable of hovering flight or are light enough to perch on the flower structures.

Since birds do not have a strong response to scent, they tend to be odorless. Perching birds need a substantial landing platform, so larger birds are less associated with tubular flowers. Birds may obtain nectar either by perching or by hovering.

Bird pollination is considered as a costly strategy for plants and it evolves only where there are particular benefits for the plant. The flowers that are visited by birds are typically:

  • Tubular and have petals that are recurved to be out of the way
  • Have tubes, funnels, cups
  • Strong supports for perching
  • Brightly colored: red, yellow, or orange
  • Odorless (birds have a poor sense of smell)
  • Prolific nectar producers with nectar deeply hidden
  • Modest pollen producers that are designed to dust the bird’s
       head/back with pollen as the bird forages for nectar