a phenomenal creature, hummingbirds have been studied intensively throughout mankind because we all know their secrets remain imperceptible to the naked human eye. in order to understand their intricate small bodies, saturated feathers, rapid wing-flapping rates and humming noise, researches have used many different technologies to uncover their mysteries. in a further attempt to understand this species, photographer anand varma has used a camera capable of capturing 3,000 frames per second to freeze in time the bird’s activities. 

 

a high speed video showing the movements of hummingbirds 100 times slower than the naked eye can see

 

 

the series of images and the video by anand varma in collaboration with ornithologist christopher clark are part of an article on hummingbirds for national geographic’s july issue. the coverage offers a detailed look into how these birds fly, shake, and drink in slow motion. the high-speed camera used to make the video is able to capture 500 frames each second, revealing what a 19th century scientist could only guess.


hummingbird shaking off rain with each twist lasting four-hundredths of a second
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic

 

 

‘by slowing down time, scientist learn more about what happens when biology brushes up against the laws of physics,’ writes national geographic. ‘there’s stuff that you absolutely do not see with the naked eye,’ clark says. ‘put a high-speed camera on it, and you’re like ‘holy cow! that’s what the bird’s doing?’


the hummingbird’s hovering ability lies in the near symmetry of its wing motion
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


dodging obstacles by altering wing strokes
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


an experiment illustrating how heavily hummingbird flight depends on the bird’s visual perceptions
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


hovering inside a special chamber that can record the tiny wave of pressure generated with every wingbeat
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


‘it’s thought that birds in general may monitor the height of objects looming in their visual field’
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


‘letting hummingbirds loose in wind tunnels allows researchers to probe the mechanics of flight’
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic


weighing the birds
photograph by anand varma, sources: victor ortega-jimenez and robert dudley © national geographic

  • Fascinating and beautiful

    Terry says:
  • Astonishing. I have been watching these captivating creatures in Costa Rica for several years, and now for several months here in the Sacramento mountains of New Mexico. In my current location there are two feeders which have been a stable source of food for well over a decade. They come in droves and multiple varieties, they congregate and swarm the feeders a couple of times a day, and they know what to expect when their supply is being replenished. They are unabashedly curious, and seem to display signs of recognizing specific humans. I am very curious about their social skills though. They appear to chase each other off and attack with considerable aggression, all jumbled together with displays of aerial ballet and hide and seek! I cannot tell whether they are playing or fighting or having foreplay! I have taken 1000’s of photos – some of which i thought were quite good until I saw yours! Now i have a serious case of camera envy…. I would be thrilled to have any information you can give me about these wondrous little beings. Many blessings for sharing this unparalleled photography!

    Liliane Pilot says:

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