Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hummingbirds at High Speed

An article on the uses of contemporary high-speed cameras had an interesting tidbit about hummingbirds:

The show, which averages 1.1 million viewers, is not meant to do original science. The team members do not do controlled, repeatable experiments. But they have made some observations that they think are original, which could always spur some real research.

In a segment about how a hummingbird feeds itself, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Kearney saw something that they think helps the bird to remain balanced while moving at rapid speeds. Using X-ray fluoroscopy, they could see nectar inside the crop on the bird’s neck, sloshing back and forth, acting as a fluid damping system. It was “taking the vibrational energy out of the body system and not letting it transfer up to the head,” Mr. Lieberman said.

“It was very easy to see on video,” he said. “But without seeing inside the bird as it flies, you would never even think about it.”