Gigglebit: What happens when you put a hummingbird in a wind tunnel?

17 Apr 2015

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It’s pretty hard to see a hummingbird’s wings move, they flap them quicker than any other bird around, often counted at 80 times a second. So some scientists had a plan…

The team over at KQED have teamed up with PBS to start a new nature series called Deep Look, and it’s brilliant.

In this episode, they look at how hummingbirds feed their insatiable hunger for flower nectar.

They have the highest metabolism in the world of warm-blooded animals, and can fly in all directions, even hovering amid strong winds.

Scientists in Berkeley brought some hummingbirds into the lab to greater establish how they move around.

But how would a hummingbird respond when the weather gets rough? To find out they put the birds into wind tunnels, with speeds of up to 20mph. The birds were then tasked with trying to eat nectar within these conditions.

It was no task, the birds were just too aerodynamic to make it a difficult challenge. They rotated their tails to position their body right, used their wings in incredibly innovative ways to maintain a consistent height and, even in rain, could eat pretty much whenever they wanted.

It’s worth a look.

Of course, if birds aren’t your thing, there’s always the Deep Look episode on banana slugs. Yep, banana slugs. They basically slug around everywhere, being ugly slugs. There's an awful lot of slime in this video.

Gigglebit is Siliconrepublic’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note – because sometimes the lighter side of STEM should be taken seriously, too.

Hummingbird image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com