Hummingbirds adjust their wings to fly through very tiny spaces

Hummingbird wings maneuver small areas. Hummingbirds use two tactics to navigate tiny leafy tunnels, according to the study. Avian acrobats avoid apertures too narrow for their wingspan. Incredible, they sustain elevation with constant flaps.

For smaller apertures or familiar paths, they pose aerodynamically. Their tactic is to tuck their wings and glide before flapping again.

How to examine hummingbird wings The hummingbird's lateral mobility and complex wing adjustments are astonishing in the amazing research. UC Berkeley integrative biology professor Robert Dudley led it.

Going into the experiments, we would have used tuck and glide. How else could they pass?" stated Dudley. "This aperture transit approach with sideways motion and wing kinematics confusion is fantastic.

They're altering the wing beat amplitude to avoid vertical descent during the sideways scooch."

Dudley's team included UC Berkeley Ph.D. graduate Marc Badger. They saw birds changing wingbeat amplitude to avoid vertical dips during these maneuvers. The lateral scooch may help birds assess and avoid obstructions, reducing accident chances.

"Learning more about how animals negotiate obstacles and other 'building-blocks' of the environment, such as wind gusts or turbulent regions, can improve our overall understanding of animal locomotion in complex environments," said Badger.  

We know little about how geometric, aerodynamic, sensory, metabolic, or structural mechanisms limit flying through clutter. The shift in aperture negotiation strategy we saw in our study suggests that longer-term impacts like bodily wear and tear may cause behavioral constraints."

Barrier course for hummingbirds The team also featured UC Berkeley undergraduates Kathryn McClain, Ashley Smiley, and Jessica Ye. They cleverly trained hummingbirds to navigate variable-sized apertures using high-speed cameras and Badger's computer application.