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Putting Hummingbirds to the Test

One hummingbird, 20 MPH wind, 1000 frames per second

smithsonian.com

Hummingbirds are delicate marvels that are notoriously hard to study. They’re also tough despite their looks and their small size.

When researchers from UC-Berkeley put hummingbirds in front of a high-speed camera and added a wind tunnel to the mix, they learned how the tiny birds stay stable, as the The Kid Should See This reports. Unlike other birds, hummingbirds actually flap their wings in a figure eight movement, instead of up and down. They use their wings to control their body and steadywith a rudder-like tail. When faced with wind currents, the birds twist, turn and still stay stable.

The research could help future engineers manufacture better micro air vehicles, the team told the Daily Californian:

“They have a whole variety of morphological and physiological adaptations that let them do that — they’re very super-specialized,” said [Robert] Dudley, who leads the Animal Flight Laboratory. “They are an amazing group to study flight control and maneuverability — that’s part of the reason why we’ve been working with them for 15 years.”

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