Bird News: High Speed Hummingbird Mating

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 12 April 2018


Bird News
High Speed Hummingbird Mating

Manipulating the Doppler Effect for Sex

As hummingbirds dive, twisting tail feathers direct sound at potential mates,
Cell Press, April 12, 2018.

The High Speed Auditory Tunnel of Love

"...Costa's hummingbird males court females with musical, high-speed dives. Their "song" is produced as the wind whistles through their tail feathers."

"...the diving males twist half their tails as they whiz through the air, apparently to aim the sound in the direction of their potential mates."

"Those acrobatic maneuvers make a phenomenon called the Doppler shift less audible...Male Costa's dive in a way that minimizes how audible that sound is."

"...used a device called an "acoustic camera" to record Costa's hummingbird dives."

"Those videos led to interesting discoveries. First, males dive off to the side of females, in a way that minimizes the Doppler shift effect. High-speed video also showed that males aim their sound by twisting half of their tail vertically by up to 90 degrees."

"...they don't know exactly how these maneuvers sound to female hummingbirds, the findings suggest that males can strategically manipulate the way females perceive their displays, by diving in a way that conceals how fast they are going."

"Does this mean males are "cheating" to look better (or faster) than they really are? Not necessarily, the researchers say. As far as they know, all males twist their tails in essentially the same way."

"You could argue that this entire species is 'cheating,' although is it really cheating if everyone is doing it?"



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