Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Flight advantages in older hummingbirds

hummingbird

Image of ruby-throated hummingbird by Joe Schneid, Louisville, Kentucky (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In a new study published in The Auk, scientists report that well-fueled older tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) might be capable of non-stop flights of over 4,000 kilometers, wind conditions permitting. They made this remarkable observation while studying birds from 2010-2014 as the animals made stopovers at a wildlife refuge during their annual migration to South America.

In general, older birds not only showed up at the wildlife refuge in Alabama earlier than younger birds, they also tended to stop for shorter durations than younger birds. On average, the older birds clearly had an advantage…more fat stores. By their estimations, using flight simulation software, the older birds with larger fat stores were potentially capable of flying on average 2,260 kilometers without needing to stop for fuel (16km minimum and 4,960km maximum).

Source:

Zenzal TJ, Moore FR. Stopover biology of ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) during autumn migration. The Auk 133(2):237-250, 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1642/AUK-15-160.1

Categories: Comparative Physiology

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s