Hovering Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are incredible flyers, especially when it comes to hovering. To hover stationary and stable enough to feed, the hummingbird’s flapping pattern not only has to generate enough lift, or vertical force, to counteract their weight, but the bird must balance any forward or backward forces generated during flapping.

As you can see in the animations above, when hovering the hummingbird’s wings move forward and back rather than up and down. When slowed down even further, the figure-8 motion of the wings becomes apparent. This careful motion is key to the hover; it allows the bird to generate about 70% of its lift on the downstroke when the wings move forward and creates the remainder of the lift needed on the upstroke. For much more high-speed footage of hummingbirds, check out the full BBC Earth Unplugged video, but be warned: you may experience a cuteness overdose! (Image credit: BBC Earth Unplugged, source)

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