Acute Sense of Touch Helps Hummingbirds Hover Near Flowers Without Bumping Them

A new study shows they create a 3D body map when gusts of air touch their wings

A juvenile male rufous hummingbird in flight (Credit: Duncan Leitch)

Key Takeaways

  • Hummingbird flight mechanics have been well studied but far less is known about how their sense of touch helps them sip nectar from a flower without bumping into it.
  • Most of what scientists know about how touch is processed in the brain comes from studies on mammals, but bird brains are very different from mammal brains.
  • New research shows touch and air pressure on the wings and legs activate specific clusters of neurons in two regions of the forebrain to create a map of their body, which may help hummingbirds make nuanced adjustments to flight.
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