This unusual bird has a strange way of gathering nectar

April 14, 2015, 2:49 p.m.

Photographer Scott Clark writes, "The Slaty Flowerpiercer is a small highland bird with an unusual hooked beak. This female was feeding in a garden in typically cloudy weather at about 3,100 meters elevation in the Talamanca Cordillera of Costa Rica."

The bird's "unusual hooked beak" has a very specific purpose. It uses the sharp hook to pierce the base of flowers, and then uses a brush-like tongue to extract the nectar through the hole.

This is in contrast to how hummingbirds use their bills to gather nectar, going in from the opening of the flower and using a long bill, often shaped for the specific types of flowers on which they feed, and a tube-like tongue. Indeed, hummingbirds and the slaty flowerpiercer aren't exactly friends, with hummingbirds driving them off from their feeding areas.

The slaty flowerpiercer is found only from northern Nicaragua to western Panama, but it isn't the only flowerpiercer species. There are about 17 more species that use a similarly amazing bill to get at the nectar of flowers. Two of the species -- the Venezuelan flowerpiercer and the Chestnut-bellied flowerpiercer -- are considered endangered.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.