Trove of hummingbird flight data reveals secrets of nimble flying | Science News

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Trove of hummingbird flight data reveals secrets of nimble flying

Muscle, wing form help bigger species rival smaller ones in agility

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6:37pm, February 8, 2018
hummingbird

WHAT TO WATCH  The fast turns of hummingbirds have inspired a massive motion-tracking study of the birds’ flight maneuvers.

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Lab-grade flight tracking has gone wild, creating a broad new way of studying some of the flashiest of natural acrobats, wild hummingbirds.

One of the findings: Bigger hummingbird species don’t seem handicapped by their size when it comes to agility. A battleship may not be as maneuverable as a kayak, but in a study of 25 species, larger hummingbirds outdid smaller species at revving or braking while turning. Measurements revealed these species have more muscle capacity and their wings tended to be proportionately larger for their body size than smaller species. Those boosts could help explain how these species could be so agile despite their size, researchers report in the Feb. 9 Science.

Adapting a high-speed camera array and real-time tracking software to perform in field conditions let the researchers analyze more than 200 wild birds

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