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Hummingbirds dodge and weave

Tweaks in muscle and wing form give different hummingbird species varying levels of agility. The deft turns of hummingbirds in flight, as shown in a competitive encounter (first clip), make great material for studying agility. In a new study, a customized tracking system (second clip) set up in Costa Rica notes the position (blue) and orientation (red) of a wild “Eugenes fulgens” hummingbird as it explores a temporary flight cage.

According to ScienceNews, adapting a high-speed camera array and real-time tracking software to perform in field conditions allowed researchers to recently analyze more than 200 wild birds swerving and pivoting naturally. With over 330,000 bird maneuvers recorded, the scientists were able to compare the agility of the different species. It’s the first comparative study of natural flight moves in wild birds, says Roslyn Dakin, who is based in Ottawa with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and is co-author of this new study published Feb. 9 in the journal Science.