More on hummingbirds

This is our last night in Monteverde, and as excited as we are for Cuerici, I think we’ll all be sad to leave. This cloud forest is one of those incredibly humbling places that make you feel like amazing things are going on around you that you might never see or understand. It’s dense, wet, and lush, and it’s often hard to get your bearings among the vines and countless shades of green. As humbling as it is, though, the secrecy of the cloud forest is also promising –  you’ll have new things to see and discover every time you return!

I actually didn’t get to spend that much time wandering through the forest for my project this time around, though. Adam, Allegra, Emily, and I did an observational study on the thermoregulatory costs of hummingbird dominance behaviors, and we spent a glorious few days watching the tiny, charismatic things forage. Since they’re so small and have such high metabolic rates, hummingbird survival and reproduction depend heavily on how much food they can get. They often perform aggressive displays against other hummingbirds to gain control of feeding areas (the males, especially), but these behaviors can be energetically costly and produce excess metabolic heat that might be risky for a hummingbird at relatively high ambient temperatures. So we looked at whether dominance behaviors would decrease with increasing temperatures (They did!).

Figuring out how to collect any meaningful data on the beautiful blurs zipping by our faces was a challenge, but we were excited to find that Vivek’s wonderful camera (a Nikon D600) could take good enough footage for us to slow the video to 1/4 of its original speed and clearly see every interaction that happened around the feeder. Well, see and hear. We recorded chirps, chases, and contacts (when one hummingbird physically tackled another), and you could hear a little thunk when they hit each other on the contacts. It was incredible to watch them that slowly – you catch a lot more behavioral nuances, and in some cases, you could see every wingbeat!

Here’s a sampling of the species we saw:

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Green-crowned brilliant (juvenile)
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Green-crowned brilliant (male)
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Purple-throated mountain gem (male)
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Purple-throated mountain gem (female)
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Purple-throated mountain gem (male)
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Green violet-ear
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Violet sabrewing (male)
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Stripe-tailed hummingbird
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The feeder in early evening.

All in all, a wonderful week!

Pura vida,

Becca Novello ’14

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One thought on “More on hummingbirds”

  1. COOL SCIENCE AND COOL PHOTOS. Y’all should post one of the videos with the full speed and slowed-down bit. I hope you guys are partying hard with Carlos now and cutting open some bamboo culms!

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