Comparative Fast Forward and Vertical Flight Trajectories in Colombian Hummingbirds


The hummingbird family comprises numerous rapidly diversified species, 338 in total, that exhibit substantial morphological and physiological variation associated with specialized floral relationships, Andean uplift, species packing in areas of high ecological diversity, and additional factors such as sexual selection. Sexually selected traits, such as long tails, may incur fitness benefits, but also may incur physiological costs in forwarding flight. Maximum forward flight speeds have been determined for two North American species, but broader comparisons of flight performance among hummingbird species, and particularly the size-dependence of horizontal accelerations, have never been carried out. The emphasis of this study was to capture hummingbirds in the Colombian Andes and use high-speed cameras to capture the flight trajectories previously described. I spent approximately one month south of Bogotá in the western cordillera at 1,700 meters above sea level. The initial part of my trip involved gathering materials from Bogotá and transporting the tools south to my field site. Once my experimental setup was built and in place, at my field site, I spent my days collecting data from the more than twenty species of hummingbirds available. Challenges that arose were partially related to logistics and partially related to weather. With the help of my Colombian collaborators, I was able to collect data that I am currently analyzing at UC Berkeley using a MATLAB package. Following these analyses, and in light of my results, my next steps will likely be further data collection and more fieldwork in collaboration with my Colombian colleagues.

Ashley Smiley
Publication date: 
August 27, 2016
Publication type: 
Student Research