What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel? | Deep Look

What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel? | Deep Look

Scientists have used a high-speed camera to film hummingbirds’ aerial acrobatics at 1000 frames per second. They can see, frame by frame, how neither wind nor rain stop these tiniest of birds from fueling up.

DEEP LOOK: a new ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe and meet extraordinary new friends. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.

How do hummingbirds eat?

With spring in full bloom, hummingbirds can be spotted flitting from flower to flower and lapping up the sugary nectar inside. These tiniest of birds have the highest metabolism of any warm-blooded animal, requiring them to consume their own body weight in nectar each day to survive.

By comparison, if a 150-pound human had the metabolism of a hummingbird, he or she would need to consume the caloric equivalent of more than 300 hamburgers a day.

But it’s not just an extreme appetite that sets hummingbirds apart from other birds. These avian acrobats are the only birds that can fly sideways, backwards and hover for long stretches of time. In fact, hovering is essential to hummingbirds’ survival since they have to keep their long, thin beaks as steady as a surgeon’s scalpel while probing flowers for nectar.

How do Hummingbirds fly?

Hummingbirds don’t just hover to feed when the weather is nice. They have to keep hovering and feeding even if it’s windy or raining, a remarkable feat considering most of these birds weigh less than a nickel.

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Read the extended article on how hummingbirds hover at KQED Science:


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12 Responses

  1. Pierce Arner says:

    A fun little video for your #ScienceEveryday needs~

  2. Dennis D. McDonald says:

    A fun little video for your #ScienceEveryday needs~

  3. KnowledgePlaylists says:

    What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel? | #DeepLook
    #RecentUploads | PBS Digital Studios KQEDscience |

  4. Patricia Brenner says:

    This is awesome

  5. Bill B says:

    Woot, I guessed “hummingbirds” when asked what the next topic/episode
    should be about. I don’t want a prize, I am a subscriber and that is plenty
    rewarding 😀

    Now, this is a longshot, but have you done beetles yet? There is so much to
    cover since they are so diverse, probably as a result of having flourished
    despite events that have otherwise extincted many other things. But they
    carry on almost unfazed.

  6. delnuggets says:

    wow some of these little guys are so beautiful!

  7. Reverend Eric Ha says:


  8. Dren Browning says:

    A perfect example of a symbiosis.

  9. Doug Rojas says:

    You used the word “evolution,” that’s a scary word for creationists.

  10. Amonynos says:

    It’s easy to get slow mo vids of hummingbirds. I mounted my GoPro on the
    porch next to the feeder and got vids just like this. They’re pretty cool
    little birds, but rowdy when the Rufus come up from Mexico

  11. Annette Cleary says:

    These birds are not only beautiful but amazing at how they manage to stay
    in the air under extreme conditions.

  12. PARVEEN SADIQ says:

    Beautiful production by Sheraz Sadiq.Very informative and interesting.