Date: December 18, 2018
Source: Princeton University
When it comes to flirting, animals know how to put on a show. In the bird world, males often go to great lengths to attract female attention, like peacocks shaking their tail feathers and manakins performing complex dance moves. These behaviors often stimulate multiple senses, making them hard for biologists to quantify.
Hummingbirds are no exception when it comes to snazzy performances, as males of many species perform spectacular courtship dives. Broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) fly up to 100 feet in the air before sweeping down toward a perched female, then climb back up for a subsequent dive in the opposite direction. At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado, home to a population of breeding broad-tailed hummingbirds, researchers from Princeton University have been investigating how hummingbirds combine speed, sound and color in their displays. Their work appears in the Dec. 18 issue of the journal Nature Communications.
"The dives are truly amazing feats for such small birds," said Benedict Hogan, a postdoctoral research associate in ecology and evolutionary biology and the study's lead author. "We know from previous work that the males can reach really high speeds. They combine that speed with intriguing noises generated by their wing and tail feathers, and of course with their brightly iridescent plumage." But how do these different components fit together, and what might a dive sound like and look like to a female?