Anna’s hummingbird ‘faster than planes’

This video is about an Anna’s hummingbird nest.

From British daily The Independent:

How a hummingbird in love can move faster than a fighter jet

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Actually it’s a bird that flies faster than a plane, relatively at least.

The dramatic courtship dive of a small hummingbird has been found to be the quickest aerial manoeuvre in the natural world for an animal compared to its size. It even outpaces the movements of a jet fighter and the Space Shuttle on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Anna’s hummingbird lives in the American south-west and the courtship display of the male is renowned for its death-defying dive that ends abruptly with a dramatic upturn with outstretched wings and tail feathers that stop the bird from crashing into the ground.

Scientists calculated that the 50mph speed of the hummingbird at the fastest point in its descent is equivalent to it moving 383 times its body length each second. The G-force as it turns out of its dive is nearly nine times the force of gravity – the same as the maximum G-forces experienced by fighter pilots. But Christopher Clark, of the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that the G-forces created as the bird comes out of its dive would make many trained fighter pilots black out as a result of the rush of blood away from the brain.

“During their courtship dive, male Anna’s hummingbirds reach speeds and accelerations that exceed the previous performance records for vertebrates undergoing a voluntarily aerial manoeuvre,” said Dr Clark.

“After powering the initial stage of the dive by flapping, males folded their wings by their sides, at which point they reached an average maximum velocity of 383 body lengths per second. This is the highest known length-specific velocity attained by any vertebrate,” Dr Clark said.

Aerial diving is seen in the courtship displays of many other birds, such as nighthawks and snipes, and it is a common feature of many bird species that attack their prey from the air – such as kingfishers, seabirds and falcons – but none come close to matching the speed and acceleration of the hummingbird, he said.

Anna’s hummingbird dives at nearly twice the speed relative to its body size than the peregrine falcon, which flies at a maximum velocity of about 200 body lengths per second. The hummingbird is also faster than the swallow, which dives from high-altitude migratory flights at a speed of about 350 body lengths per second.

Dr Clark conducted his measurements using high-speed digital cameras that were able to take images of the entire dive from start to finish and provide the accurate data that allowed him to estimate the acceleration and speed from the time taken for the bird to cover different points in the dive. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was a follow-up to early research proving that Anna’s hummingbird was able to “sing” through its tail.

See also here. And here.

Birders along the Pacific Coast are to be envied – most of us only have hummingbirds visit during the spring and summer, but Anna’s hummingbirds are year-round residents from Baja to British Columbia. That gives birders the chance to add them to their life lists anytime – have you seen one yet?

North America Hummingbird Identification Chart: here.

Praying mantis catches hummingbird: here.

Hummingbirds shake their heads to deal with rain: here.

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5 thoughts on “Anna’s hummingbird ‘faster than planes’

  1. From the National Wildlife Federation in the USA:

    Dear Friend of Wildlife,

    Hummingbirds are the world’s tiniest birds. Fascinating to watch and great pollinators, it’s no wonder they’re one of the most popular backyard birds.

    HummingbirdsTo attract hummers to your yard, simply provide a regular source of nectar:

    Naturally – Plant red, tubular flowers, native to your area.

    Artificially – Provide feeders designed to hold sugar water (see recipe below).

    Want to do more for hummingbirds and other wildlife? Join our nationwide drive to create 150,000 wildlife-friendly yards through National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.

    Just provide the things that animals need most: food, water, shelter, and places to raise their families. Certify your yard today and receive some exciting benefits.

    Get Started Now

    Join our nationwide drive to certify 150,000 yards
    Hummingbird: © Noël Zia Lee

    Make Your Own Nectar

    * Dissolve one part sugar in four parts hot water.
    * Boil the water if you plan to store the nectar in the refrigerator.
    * Never use honey, which ferments easily, or artificial sweeteners, which have no food value for birds.
    * Let the solution cool to room temperature before putting it in your feeder. You can store homemade nectar for up to a week in the refrigerator.

    Once you fill your feeder, don’t forget to empty, rinse and refill your feeder every two to three days (especially in warm weather) to prevent spoiling. This ensures that hummingbirds won’t become sick from drinking bad nectar.


  2. Pingback: Top 10 birds on the US internet | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Bees, birds and yellow flowers | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: 33 unusual bird nests | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Mites on hummingbirds’ tails, new study | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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