How Male Hummingbirds Use Their Tails To Impress Females
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
When male hummingbirds perform valiant dives in front of females, they are actually enticing them with high-frequency vibrations produced by their tail feathers, a new study reports. The vibrations are audible, precise and separate from the humming of the wings that gives the birds their name.
Females may be making use of these vibrations to select mates, said the study’s lead author, Christopher Clark, an expert on biomechanics at Yale. Dr. Clark and his colleagues from Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, report their findings in the current issue of the journal Science. “The sounds of each species are fairly distinctive and fairly unique,” he said. “It clearly evolved as a communication signal.”
The researchers studied 31 tail feathers from 14 species of hummingbirds. They placed the feathers in a wind tunnel and used a Doppler vibrometer to measure the vibrations…