July 10, 2017 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Hummingbird's Frenzy "With their rocketing movements and jewel-like plumage, hummingbirds seem like a hybrid of flesh, feather, and fireworks. The wings of some species flap up to a hundred times per second. Their heart rate can exceed a thousand beats per minute, and they gulp nectar with a near-invisible flick of the tongue. In gardens or at backyard feeders, they’re the definition of fleeting beauty. So who could resist the temptation to slow their motion, to dissect their movements—to inhabit, even briefly, the hummingbird’s world?"

Behind the scenes video of the slow motion footage.
posted by dhruva (28 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I know their brains have to be the size of a nail clipping but they are fighter pilots and if the feeder is missing they'll come to the kitchen window to supervise the washing and drying and complain to anyone who goes outside. Hover right in front of your face and tell you how you are not doing your job right. I wear glasses but I've heard one of the kids say "Please don't poke me in the eye."
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:17 AM on July 11, 2017 [23 favorites]

So beautiful and alien. It's really fascinating to see their movements stretched in microscopic time and realize just how utterly different their evolutionary path is. was
posted by Doleful Creature at 6:13 AM on July 11, 2017

Do hummingbirds love to watch amusing videos of the adorably slow humans? Do they think tortoises and sloths are statues? What must the perception of time be like for them?
posted by fairmettle at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I love how bold they are. They know they can get away fast, so we are not much of a threat. They come quite close to my head sometimes when I'm outside. It can be a little alarming!
posted by amtho at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

So their wings are basically like Wells turbines, generating lift in two directions. Neat.
posted by scruss at 7:00 AM on July 11, 2017

This is great, thank you for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:21 AM on July 11, 2017

Great vid.

We haven't had the number of humbirds these last 2 years that have congregated in past years. :( I hope that isn't a harbinger of years to come. I used to cuss the little buggers because it was like sitting through a swarm of flies to be out on the deck in the evening. And fight! Not exactly relaxing to listen to. But beautiful.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:32 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love hummingbirds. I planted aloe and salvia in my yard specifically to draw them. Yesterday I watched one hover over the oscillating sprinkler and drink water mid-flight. It was amazing to watch.
posted by vignettist at 7:52 AM on July 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I love hummingbirds. But I love even more the swarm of bees that gloms on to the feeder every year. The hummingbirds occasionally get a beak in edgewise but the bees, they own that sugar water.

Mr. Yuck: "I know their brains have to be the size of a nail clipping "

From the FA: Its brain, at 4.2 percent of body weight, is proportionally the largest
among birds and second largest in the animal kingdom.

posted by chavenet at 9:05 AM on July 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Watching that hummingbird pull up to the syringe to drink (around the 40 second mark in the video) reminds me of a fighter plane in a mid-air refueling. The hummingbird's doing it much faster, of course, but is also slightly less explosive if there's a mistake made.
posted by hanov3r at 9:13 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by humboldt32 at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I visited a park in Costa Rica where you're allowed to hold a little feeder so the hummingbirds come drink from your hand. It was fascinating, and when one hovered for a minute, it was like holding a little motorized fan that provided a welcome breeze. I definitely took slo-mo videos. Amazing little creatures!
posted by jhope71 at 10:14 AM on July 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

This tumblr post is always the first thing I think of re: hummingbirds.
posted by nonasuch at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Hummingbird Show is probably my favorite backyard entertainment. I do not always remember to fill up the birdfeeders, but the hummingbirds get fresh juice as soon as I notice the feeders are low.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few weeks back, while visiting Portland, OR, I was walking around Cathedral Park and heard this weird sizzling sound coming from above me. I spotted a humming bird -sitting still on a branch-, twitching its head around and making this sizzle sound! I took video of it scratching itself too, which which ridonkulously adorbaborbz. It was really, really hot that day, so maybe it was too hot to fly?

Also, I love hummingbirds.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:08 PM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nonasuch, I've got to quote part of that tumblr post because it made me fall out of my chair laughing:

...hummingbirds are not carrying your hopes for joy around. I am sorry. Have you met hummingbirds? Hummingbirds believe strongly that they should be eighteen feet tall and have flamethrowers. They are a half ton of pugnacious wrapped up in a half ounce of feathers. Given the choice, hummingbirds would fly around with “Ride of the Valkyries” blasting out of tiny speakers on their wings, putting the eyes out of their enemies.

posted by BlueHorse at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

yes! that's my favorite part!
posted by nonasuch at 5:02 PM on July 11, 2017

Mr. Yuck - No one believes me when I tell them the hummingbirds in our yard will come to our kitchen window on another side of the house to let us know when their feeder is empty; but you obviously have had the same experience! Thank you for your post!!
posted by SA456 at 10:05 PM on July 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

The video in that article is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in my life. Thanks for this.
posted by rednikki at 10:11 PM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

My brother described his hummingbirds as alerting him to their empty feeder by coming to his window and looking in and clearly saying, "HEY! ASSHOLE! JUICE IS OUT!"
posted by The otter lady at 10:17 PM on July 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Annoying birds. How come they can live on sugar water and I have to have a boring old balanced diet?
posted by Devonian at 5:24 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

About 25% of their diet is protein: they also eat bugs.
posted by y2karl at 8:11 AM on July 12, 2017

Also, as one bird guide puts it:

Temperament: Pugnacious.
posted by y2karl at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can also confirm all the demanding habits of the adorable little bastards.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:54 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

About 25% of their diet is protein: they also eat bugs.

Ah, that I did not know. Those beaks look awkward for bug-chomping. In my defence, this is the closest we have over here...
posted by Devonian at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2017

they also eat bugs
I've seen them pluck spiders off their webs.
posted by dhruva at 9:35 PM on July 12, 2017

I can also confirm all the demanding habits of the adorable little bastards.

I, too, get bossy clicks.from the Lord of the Broadway courtyard when the feeders run dry.

My favorite moment was when running a cone sprinkler on a cloudy day, I walked into the courtyard and caught him about two feet above the grass, hovering in the spray. Oh, to have had my phone on me...
posted by y2karl at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2017

Tip for those of you who have a lawn or other appropriate configuration: my hummingbirds love the patio misters, and I also have a birdbath (deep plant pot, actually) with a solar fountain that they'll fly through sometimes.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:54 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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