In this activity, students model the wing-stroke of hummingbirds to learn the difference between hovering and flying.
Like other birds, most hummingbirds fly forward using downward strokes of their wings to get lift. But hummingbirds have the ability to hover. A hummingbird sweeps its wings mostly horizontally to hover. It rotates its wings in a figure-eight pattern which pushes air forward, backward and downward, generating lift force on both forward and back strokes of the wing. By adjusting the angle of its wings and tail, it can hover on the spot, move forward or backward or pivot to either side.
Rufous hummingbirds, which breed in British Columbia, have reached 200 strokes per second during courtship! The fast strokes of hummingbird wings push air backwards and forwards to make the h-u-u-u-m-m that we hear.