What happens when you put a hummingbird in a wind tunnel?

Hummingbirds on the Berkeley campus keep a sweet secret. If they’re lucky, they get invited to Robert Dudley’s wind tunnel for free sugar water snacks.

KQED Science filmed hummingbirds in Robert Dudley’s Animal Flight Laboratory. (Sheraz Sadiq video, KQED, with UC Berkeley high-speed video)

All they have to do is put up with some buffeting breezes as they sip – no big deal for these coastal troupers – and soon they’re back outside sitting pretty with a full tummy.

Dudley, a professor of integrative biology, comes away with high-speed video that will help him and his colleagues understand how these animals hover and maneuver in all kinds of weather.

KQED producer Sheraz Sadiq joined postdoctoral researcher Victor Ortega in Dudley’s Animal Flight Laboratory last month to film these birds in action for a “Deep Look” segment, “What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel?”

Deep Look is a new ultra-HD (4K) short-video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios.

In the video, Sadiq incorporates the scientists’ high-speed camera footage of the hummingbirds’ aerial acrobatics filmed at 1,000 frames per second.

The Berkeley researchers worked with Anna’s hummingbirds, a species that can be found year-round in the Bay Area, which they caught on the Berkeley campus and later released. The video shows how neither wind nor rain stops these tiniest of birds from fueling up.

To learn more about the aerial feats of hummingbirds, link to the online story at KQED.org. Also check out Deep Look’s Youtube channel.

RELATED INFORMATION