the secret lives of hummingbirds


CAPTION: High-speed footage of these remarkable creatures has revealed an unprecedented look at the unseen details of their lives, from their tiny forked tongues to the intricate wing motion that allows them to hover in the air for upwards of 30 seconds at a time. Not only did the task require the use of a 4K camera that’s capable of shooting 3,000 frames per second, but the team also had to build special tools to better visualize their movements. TOP: With their rocketing movements and jewel-like plumage, hummingbirds seem like a hybrid of flesh, feather, and fireworks. The wings of some species flap up to a hundred times per second. Their heart rate can exceed a thousand beats per minute, and they gulp nectar with a near-invisible flick of the tongue. To slip through an oval-shaped hole, this Anna’s hummingbird performs a sideways shimmy, altering its wing strokes to avoid contact with the divider. Capturing the action in a single frame, a strobe light flashed three times during a 0.4-second exposure. MIDDLE: Hummer drinks from handmade miniature glass dishes used to highlight the movement of the hummingbird’s forked tongue. BOTTOM: Here, a hummingbird can be seen shaking water from its body after simulated rainfall. (@Anand Varma / National Geographic)