High Speed Pictures Show Magic of Hummingbirds in Flight
Reacher's findings could contribute to our understanding of mating patterns.
Cuba’s hummingbird is literally the smallest bird in the world—and they move in a blur.
So in pursuit of a clearer picture (literally and figuratively) of hummingbirds in Palpite, Cuba, National Geographic had to turn to technology.
Christopher Clark, an ornithologist — or expert on birds — set up a high-speed camera that slices each second of it into 500 frames. He used the camera to photograph hummingbirds drinking from a flower in the first ever such application of the camera. Only once you click through every frame, can you see the maneuvers that the birds’ high speed conceals.
Some species of hummingbirds flap their wings up to a hundred times per second and their heart rate can exceed a thousand beats per minute. They live exclusively in the Americas, and there are about 340 recognized species — with the smallest weighing two grams. Granted, the largest only weighs about 20 grams.
They are also the only birds that cover hover in still air for 30 seconds or more and the only birds that can fly backward. A 2013 University of Toronto study concluded that if hummingbirds were human-sized, they’d need to drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda for every minute they’re hovering because of the speed with which they burn sugar.
For the past eight years, Clark has traveled around the world, recording hummingbird courtship displays. His findings could contribute to the understanding of animal flight and specifically, hummingbird mating systems.
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