Hummingbirds Sing With Their Tail Feathers To Impress Females

Posted: Apr 14 2018, 3:27pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 14 2018, 3:33pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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Hummingbirds Sing with their Tail Feathers to Impress Females
Male Costa's hummingbird. Credit: Christopher Clark

Researchers have found that male Costa's hummingbirds make sideways dives to hide their actual speeds

Male Costa’s hummingbirds attract females with high-speed dives in which they sing with their tail feathers. But these birds also add a twist to improve their chances. Unlike other hummingbird species, Costa’s perform their dives to the side of females rather than in front of them.

Researchers have now found that these sideways dives allow males to manipulate the speed of their dives, making them look faster than they actually are. The strategy basically minimizes the Doppler sound that is created during dives. Doppler sound is an acoustic indicator that would otherwise reveal the real speed of their dives. Researchers describe this phenomenon as the sudden change in tone of an ambulance siren as the vehicle passes by.

“Recent studies in birds and other animals suggest that females prefer higher speeds during male athletic displays. By concealing their speed, males are not necessarily cheating, but instead have evolved this placement of trajectory out of female choice.” Lead author of the study Christopher Clark from University of California, Riverside said.

Clark and his colleague used an acoustic camera to record Costa’s hummingbird dives inside a specialized wind tunnel and analyzed how their speed and direction affect the sound they make. Videos showed that males can twist their tails by up to 90 degrees, which amplifies their chirps and makes Doppler shift less audible. Researchers were surprised to find that it was difficult to measure the velocity of the Costa’s dive from the sound they produced.

“Once I realized it wasn’t trivial for a scientist to measure, I realized it wouldn’t be trivial for a female to measure either.” Clark said.

While researchers do not know exactly how this acrobatic maneuver sounds to female hummingbirds, it certainly manipulates the way they perceive the male’s athletic display.

Christopher Clark says. “Most research has focused on static male attributes, such as bright colors and elongated tails but our research shows that dynamic displays may be just as important and males strategically control these performances to show themselves in the best possible light.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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