Hummingbirds hovering system might have a breach, say two researchers who believe the bird’s helicopter like flying features depend on a stationary visual field.
The general impression we have of hummingbirds is that they are graceful while possessing the amazing ability of flying still much as a helicopter. This new University of British Columbia investigation reveals new insight on their flying system and how it might not always work without failure.
The study, conducted by UBC zoologists Benjamin Goller and Douglas Altshuler displayed a spiral in motion and patterns with stripes to free-flying hummingbirds trying to eat out of a stationary feeder.
The tests showed that even reduced background movements made the birds drift and lose their stability. Even when the flying creatures got accustomed with the visual patterns, their stability was still shaky.
However, a slight improvement in balance was noticed when projecting a blend of stationary and moving stimuli which helped the winged creatures to regain some steadiness.
Goller declared that his team was extremely astounded to observe how solid and enduring the disturbance was. The birds known for their feeding and hovering exactness were in fact, missing their target by a centimeter. Researchers believe that this shows how connected are these birds’ brains to the actual movement process since even the smallest new development in their visual field causes them to drift and lose equilibrium.
The study suggests that flying is so deeply embedded in the hummingbirds brain that something that is perceived by the birds as an anomaly in movement can make them even stop an essential body function like feeding.
This investigation was the first time when scientist managed to directly analyze the effect of visual movements on bird’s free flight. The study is basically an attempt to see how birds use their vision while they change their flight from a hovering to a straight flight.
Human brains also have their own reactions to visual movement around us. They respond distinctively to visuals stimuli of movement depending on the circumstances. So, starting from this idea, the researchers hope to observe such specific reactions in birds.
The two researchers deducted that hummingbirds manage to keep flying in a single position by focusing on a still movement in their visual field. This conclusion is considered quite unexpected in flying creatures popular for their visual processing and great mapping of space.
A detailed insight on the story can be found in in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.