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Do Sparrows Have Tongues?

Written By Richie Alston


Do Sparrows Have Tongues

If you’ve spent time in the garden, you can probably explain the basics of sparrows. You know they’re brown in colour and have beaks and wings but have you considered what’s in their mouths? Do sparrows have tongues or not?

Yes, sparrows have tongues. In fact, all birds have tongues. However, these tongues are not necessarily pink and fleshy like human tongues. This is due to the function of bird tongues. 

Bird tongues are so unique that if we could see their tongues in addition to their bills, it would be easy to identify bird species. Different bird species have different types of tongues – yes, there are different types of tongues!

What Types Of Tongues Do Birds Have? 

It seems as if every species of bird has a different-looking tongue. This makes sense if you think about the wide variety of diets these bird species eat. Some eat insects, other stick to nuts and seeds while others enjoy berries.

Below, you can find the different variations of tongues that birds have and how each is used:

Barbs, Frays, and Slits 

Some bird tongues will have barbs on the end of them. Since birds cannot swallow like humans, their tongues help them eat their food. Backwards-facing barbs help guide food into the throat of the bird.

Other tongues may have sliced or frayed ends to them. Scientists aren’t sure what benefits these tongue designs offer the birds, but are sure that it is part of the evolutionary process. 

Filtering Tongues 

Some birds will use their tongues as a tool when they filter water through their bills. Ducks are a common bird to use this way of feeding. They will fill their bills with water before using their tongue to filter the water and mud out, leaving behind food particles.

Birds which use filtering tongues, tend to have small ridges on the side of them, like geese. These ridges allow the birds to keep food particles inside their mouths when they are filtering the other materials out. 

Spiney Tongues 

Penguins and other birds that eat fish have tongues with sharp spines going along either side of the outer edge. These tongues help penguins grab onto fish while swimming and hold on to them as they swallow. 

Not all fish-eating birds have spiked tongues though. Some of these fish-eating birds just have strong jaws and sharp bills. 

What Does a Sparrow Tongue Look Like? 

So, now that you know that sparrows do have tongues, have you considered what they might look like? Their tongues do not exceed the length of their beaks (you can learn more about beaks, in general, with these bird beak facts). It is unknown if sparrows use their tongue for anything when it comes to eating or drinking. 

Sparrow tongues do not have any barbs, slits, or grooves in them. Their tongues look fleshy and are pale pink in colour, almost like a mini human tongue. 

Want to Attract Birds to Your Garden?

We’ve Put Together an Ultimate Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Garden, Including What to Plant and What to Feed Them:

What Do Birds Use Their Tongues For? 

Birds use their tongues for many different things. Some bird tongues are designed to help birds eat.

Hummingbirds have tongues that extend well beyond their beaks to help them suck up delicious nectar from plants and flowers. Penguins have spiked tongues to help them catch fish.

But what about tongue use for other activities? What else do birds use their tongues for? 

Can Birds Stick Their Tongue Out?

Most birds cannot stick their tongues out past their jaws. However, hummingbirds and woodpeckers can. Hummingbirds and woodpeckers are known for their long, slender bills. Hummingbirds feed on nectar from flowers while woodpeckers forage for food within trees and bark. 

Woodpecker tongues also have a sticky solution on them along with barbs on the end to help them get insects into their mouths. Woodpeckers and hummingbirds have very unique tongues due to the way and what they eat.


If you have more questions about birds and their tongues then check out these FAQs:

Do Bird Tongues Help Communication?

Humans use their tongues to talk, creating different wounds with tongue placement. Birds, however, do not use their tongues to create different sound patterns. Scientists do believe that parrots can and will use their tongues to help create different sounds and words.

Do Birds Have Taste Buds?

Birds do have taste buds. Humans have over 10,000 taste buds on our tongues. Bird tongues do not have nearly as many. Bird tongues do provide some tasting ability for birds as they eat their prey. 

Do Birds Kiss?

While you may see birds rubbing their beaks together as a sign of affection, birds do not kiss. Some bird species will rub their beaks together with one another in the courting process. This is an adorable act that allows birds to get to know one another and share some bird cuddles. 

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