Scientists Finally Know How Hummingbirds Navigate Small Spaces

Hummingbirds are outliers in the avian world. Their wings do not have a joint in the middle, so they cannot bend their wings or fold them. However, their ball-joint shoulders allow them to rotate their wings to flap them in a unique figure eight pattern, giving them amazing agility and allowing them to hover.

If they cannot tuck their wings, how do they fly through small places, like dense trees? A recent experiment sheds light on this questions that has plagued ornithologists. An artificial environment was set up that caused hummingbirds to fly back and forth between two artificial flowers with nectar. Then barriers were put between the flowers, with openings of increasingly smaller size, while high-speed cameras recorded the birds' movements.

The study revealed two methods that hummingbirds use to fly through small spaces. One is the "bullet" method, where they get up speed and nosedive through a hole while not flapping their wings. The other is a sideways move that only works if the opening is a certain size. Read about this research and see a video that shows how these incredible birds move at the Guardian. -via Damn interesting ā€‹

(Image credit: Lorie Shaull

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