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What makes hummingbirds such agile flyers?

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Hummingbirds are one of the most agile fliersin the animal kingdom - they can fly in anydirection and regularly perform aerial acrobaticsto evade predators and maintain their demanding diets.Maneuverability -- the ability to change eitherspeed or direction on the fly -- is a hallmarkof powered flight in animals.Researchers are now trying to figure outhow maneuverability--this interplay between feathers and muscles,weight and air -- evolved in birdswith the aid of hundreds of hummingbirds.The hummingbird family consists of337 different species,with a variety of body masses and wing shapes.To understand how these variations affect flight,researchers observed the flight maneuversof 200 hummingbirds from 25 species.Each bird was placed in a test chamber for 30 minuteswhile their flight was tracked by a computer.The computer recorded the birds’ flightat 200 frames per second and the trackingdata was then analyzed using custom software.The analysis showed that different speciesfavored some maneuvers over others, and wereusually much better at their preferred maneuvers.Larger species tended to have higher maneuverability,in part due to their larger wing sizeand muscle capacity-- not just in relation to smallerspecies but in relation to their bodies as a whole.However, within these species,the heavier hummingbirds tended to havelower maneuverability.Researchers also found that a larger wing arearelative to body mass enhances a hummingbirdspecies’ acceleration and turning performance.So far, these experiments have only been conductedon hummingbirds, but, in the future, researchershope to branch out to other species.Also on the to-do list is the developmentof small data loggers that can be attachedto birds in the wild, giving researchers insighton how birds use these flight maneuvers intheir day-to-day lives.

Looking over hundreds of flight recordings, researchers gained new insight into what makes hummingbirds so good at fast, agile flight.

Read more – http://scim.ag/2Eu7p7a

editor/animator/narrator
Chris Burns

supervising producers
Sarah Crespi
Nguyên Khôi Nguyên

script
Chris Burns

citation
R. Dakin et al., Science 2018
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao7104

research photos/footage
Roslyn Dakin

hummingbird photos
Flickr
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Kathy & sam
Francesco Veronesi
Bart Van Dorp
Greg Gilbert
Rolf Riethof
Eric Gropp
ryanacandee
Roberto De la Parra
Gerry Hawkins
Ron Knight
Don Henise
Alan Schmierer
Andy Morffew
S. Rohrlach
Korf-Adri
Joao Quental

stock footage
Pond5
Videoblocks

music
Chris Burns

$23.20

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Sales Rank 50542 Schwaber, Ken/ Beedle, Mike

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One Thought to “What makes hummingbirds such agile flyers?”

  1. Petitio Principii

    What about developing some mind-control technique to make them hunt mosquitoes?

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