Jun 10, 2009 03:58 PM
To win the favor of females, male Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) dive at record speeds of 385 body lengths per second—and pull some extreme in-flight maneuvers—reports a new study in the U.K. journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Using high-speed video cameras, study author Christopher Clark, a doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley's Animal Flight Laboratory, was able to capture the birds' courtship dive, which, he writes, resembles the shape of "a tilted 'J'."
After plunging at a velocity of up to 89.6 feet (27.3 meters) per second, the tiny bird throws out its wings and pulls suddenly up, a move that would expose the little guy to nine times standard gravity. To put that in context, human fighter pilots usually black out at around seven g's.
The hummer's top acceleration beats any other (voluntary) vertebrate aerial maneuver on record, Clark notes, and the speed also breaks ground for the fastest vertebrate length-specific speed, including that of a swallow's impressive high-altitude dive of 350 body lengths per second. All that in a bird that's 3.5 to four inches (nine to 10 centimeters) long, with only nectar for fuel.
Image courtesy of Kevin Cole via Wikimedia Commons
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