Researchers have discovered the secret behind the incredible agility of hummingbirds.
When it comes to impressive aerial stunts, hummingbirds can rival Top Gun’s Maverick.
Scientists have found that the small animals, which are from North America, have two distinct methods for fitting through narrow spaces that are smaller than their wingspan.
According to experts, the results provide insight into the ongoing mystery of how wild hummingbirds are able to navigate through thick vegetation to access flowers full of nectar or delicious insects. This is despite their inability to fold their wings like other birds.
According to Dr. Marc Badger, the first author of the study at the University of California, Berkeley, many people view hummingbirds as incredibly swift and agile creatures. However, these impressive skills are only visible in open spaces and are just a small portion of their capabilities.
In the Journal of Experimental Biology, Badger and his team detail the development of a system consisting of four Anna’s hummingbirds and two artificial flowers.
The flowers would only fill with nectar when the bird visited the other flower, causing the birds to fly back and forth between them.
The scientists divided the flowers into seven groups using partitions that had either a circular or oval opening. The dimensions of the opening ranged from being as wide and tall as the wingspan of the birds (about 12cm) to half that size (6cm).
The scientists showed the seven openings to every hummingbird 10 times and observed them flying back and forth between the flowers, totaling to 140 documented attempts per bird.
The recordings showed that the birds’ posture while flying through the openings varied between two distinct positions on a spectrum.
At one end of the spectrum, the birds pulled their wings close to their body and briefly stopped flapping to swiftly fly through the opening like a speeding bullet.
In contrast, they utilized a more deliberate technique where they rotated their body and twisted their head to maneuver through the opening while maintaining a flapping motion. This was achieved by tilting one wing forward and the other backward.
The study revealed that the birds commonly utilized both methods on the majority of the openings. However, for the tiniest circular opening, they predominantly employed the bullet-like technique.
The researchers found that throughout the experiments, the birds consistently used the bullet method, regardless of the size and shape of the opening.
According to Badger, it is likely that the birds initially choose a more cautious sideways approach in order to avoid the potential danger of flying through the hole in the partition. However, as they became more confident in the safety of the setup, they may have switched to a faster “bullet” strategy in order to minimize the risk of damaging their feathers.
The study conducted by Badger discovered that hummingbirds, with the ability to flap their wings 40-50 times per second, are able to change their position while flying in small areas.
He exclaimed that it is amazing to witness the utilization of flap-by-flap maneuvering for the wings.