Down The Hatch

Few sounds symbolize American patriotism like the piercing shrill of a bald eagle. But just like George Washington and his cherry tree, that majestic call is a myth. The screech associated with the bald eagle, in fact, belongs to a different bird. It’s a cry that’s synonymous with America’s national bird. But there’s a problem. If you were to look up at the bird making that sound in real life you wouldn’t see a bald eagle. Unfortunately for the bald eagle, it has like a little cackling type of a laugh that’s not really very impressive for the bird.

The hole in the tongue is not for swallowing, it’s for breathing. The bird trachea (windpipe) comes up through the tongue. The esophagus is behind that. This is very functional, actually. The eagle’s tongue also has sort of a barb on it. When they are swallowing something large, like a fish, they will stick out their tongue so the barbs go past the morsel, then pull their tongue back in. The tips of the barb will pull the food back into their throat, where it can be swallowed. If an eagle’s windpipe were behind the tongue like a human, they would be unable to breathe with a large piece of prey or whole fish in their throat. A situation like that is where the tongue comes into play. They will stick out their tongues to allow the barbs to get the bite of food, but while the tongue is extended, they will open the hole in their tongue to take a breath of air.

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