When hummingbirds fly unfriendly skies

Hovering behind a fat obstacle like a tree trunk on a windy day may have costs

By Susan Milius, 17:48 PM March 25, 2014

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Swirling air can make hummingbirds work harder to hover, but only when the air’s vortices open wider than a bird’s wing.

The first measurements of how much a flying animal’s metabolism revs up when coping with turbulent air come from five Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) that Victor M. Ortega-Jimenez of the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues tested. In a wind tunnel, the hummingbirds hovered at a feeder downwind from a cylinder of varying size. Buffeted by vo...

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