Research

Hummingbirds Singing with their Tail Feathers

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Aeroelastic flutter occurs when fluid mechanical forces and structural forces get coupled together, one feeding the other. Usually, we think of it as a destructive mechanism, but, for hummingbirds, it’s part of courtship. When a male hummingbird looks to attract a mate, he’ll climb and dive, flaring his tail feathers one or more times. As he does so, air flow over the feathers causes them to vibrate and produce noise. Researchers studied such tail feathers in a wind tunnel, finding a variety of vibrational behaviors, including a tendency for constructive interference–in other words two feathers vibrating in proximity is much louder than either individually. For more, check out the original Science article or the write-up at phys.org. (Video credit: C. Clark et al.)

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