[CT Birds] Hummingbird flight observation

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Mon Oct 1 14:44:24 EDT 2012

While walking across Millstone Point this afternoon I observed a hummingbird (probably Ruby-throated but who knows) using topography (well architecture to be more accurate) to its advantage. There is a strong southwest wind blowing across the point, creating a dead on headwind for the migrating hummingbird. The large buildings of the powerstation were creating a windblock as the bird approached (in the lee of the buildings for all you sailors). The hummingbird clearly altered its course to get into and stay in the lee of the buildings, and flew right down along the ground until it came in close to the structures. At the last moment the bird flew sharply upward and over the 3 story structure, and into the teeth of the wind, when it could absolutely no longer avoid the full headwind. Having observed this use of terrain to lessen the energy used to cover distance, I wondered if a bird utilized the principles of sailing, and "tacked" into the wind rather than flying directly into it, would it use less energy per unit of distance? And how does one teach a hummingbird to tack?


David Provencher

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