A peaceful Sunday afternoon – the perfect time to sit on the front porch. From my rocking chair, I can see the hummingbirds as they refuel at our hummingbird feeder. An agile bird, at times almost twitchy, I watch as one approachs the feeder. The hummer gives it a brief look, followed by a dart forward, a quick drink, and a backwards retreat. This cycle may be repeated several times until suddenly, in a blink of the eye, the hummer’s gone. Gone until the next visit, that is.
Which won’t take long. According to this Oregon State website, “Hummingbirds need to eat about 30 to 50 percent of their body weight daily to fuel their high-energy lifestyle.”
With that amount of energy consumption, it would make sense for the hummingbird to be energy efficient. As automobile drivers, we try to avoid quick stops and starts. But the same is not true of hummingbirds – as anyone who’s watched one can tell you. Their flights are full of quick starts and stops. But perhaps they conserve energy in other ways? Is it more “fuel” efficient to fly forwards or to fly backwards? How about hovering?
In a recently published study, researchers at the University of California examined the energy expended by Anna’s hummingbirds in a wind tunnel at their laboratory. Hummingbirds were fed at an artificial “flower” (a syringe filled with sucrose). Airflow was directed at the bird from different directons, while the scientists measured oxygen consumption (a measure of energy expenditure). They found that “backward flight was as cheap as forward flight and 20% more efficient than hovering.” To see their slow-motion videos of hummingbirds hovering, flying forwards, and backwards, click here.
One of the advantages of the our front porch feeder is that the hummers can, if they wish, “sit at the table” while they refuel.
Or perhap they could take a lesson from this Fox squirrel, who found his own unique way of refueling.
Part II will be posted the week of 3/4/13.
If you want to learn more about setting up your own hummingbird feeder, check out this website from the University of Oregon Extension.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, February 6, 13, 20, & 27.
Saturday mornings, February 2 & 16.
Saturday, February 23, 2:30-4:30 PM. “The Earliest Wildflowers” at Towsley Canyon. Meet in the parking lot at the gate. Click here for a map and directions.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces: http://hikesantaclarita.com/.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders. http://bikesantaclarita.com
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