Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 11:49 EDT
Aerodynamics of Hummingbird Flight Image 1
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Aerodynamics of Hummingbird Flight (Image 1)

July 26, 2010
Using a sophisticated digital imaging technique, scientists have now determined the aerodynamics of hummingbird flight. Researchers used digital particle imaging velocimetry (DPIV) to study the aerodynamics of hummingbird hovering. DPIV couples a digital camera that uses a laser light source with a computer, to track circulating microscopic oil droplets seeded in the air. The system allows scientists to follow the movement of individual particles when air is circulated by the bird's wings.

The team found that hummingbirds support 75 percent of their weight during the wing's down stroke and 25 percent on the up stroke--in contrast to insects, which produce equal amounts of lift during their down and up strokes. This data disproves conclusions from numerous earlier studies that hummingbirds hovered like insects despite their profound muscle and skeletal differences.