Planet Earth

SNAPSHOT: This Hummingbird's Elaborate Mating Display Lasts Just Milliseconds

D-briefBy Alison MackeyDec 18, 2018 11:00 PM
hummingbirds have complex mating displays
(Credit: David Inouye/Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory)


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Hellooo, ladies! This male broad-tailed hummingbird was captured on the upswing of a dramatic dive meant to impress a potential mate. Many male birds put on a flashy show to woo females, and the broad-tailed hummingbird is no exception.

Princeton University researchers Benedict Hogan and Mary Caswell Stoddard have been studying the courtship routines of this tiny Don Juan, published today in the journal Nature Communications.

A male looking to catch a lady hummingbird’s eye will climb up to 100 feet before dropping into a high-speed, U-shaped dive in front of her, then repeating the process in the opposite direction. As he nears the object of his affection, the male uses his tail feathers to create a distinct buzzing sound before the final pièce de résistance: a flash of iridescence from his ruby red neck, appearing to change color as he rockets past.

This acrobatic explosion all happens in the blink of an eye, around 300-milliseconds.

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