Slow-motion video reveals the birds take two different approaches: flying sideways or pinning their wings back and darting like a bullet.
As they dart around looking for nectar, hummingbirds are easily able to navigate through dense foliage and other tight spaces. This feat is especially impressive because, unlike other birds, they can’t bend their wings at the wrist and elbow to tuck them into their bodies.
Without this ability, scientists wondered how hummingbirds successfully managed to squeeze through such tiny gaps - but the speedy fliers move too quickly for the human eye to follow. They flap their wings really fast - faster than any other bird at up to 70 wingbeats per second. That adds up to more than 4,000 wingbeats per minute!
Now, thanks to high-speed cameras and their ability to create slo-mo film that's easy for the human eye to follow, researchers finally know how the little creatures manage their acrobatic feats.
In a study published last week in the Journal of Experimental Biology, scientists suggest hummingbirds use two different strategies to fly through small spaces: In one, they approach the gap slowly, hover for a brief moment and fly through sideways. In the other, they approach quickly, pin their wings back and dart through without flapping - much like a bullet.
Take a look...