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.

### Objectives

• Model the wing-beat pattern of a hummingbird.

### Key Questions

• How is the flight of the hummingbird the same as the flight of other birds?
• How is the flight of the hummingbird different as the flight of other birds?

### What To Do

1. Watch slow motion video of hovering.
2. Observe that hummingbirds move their wings in a horizontal figure-8 pattern.
3. Ask students to stand up and hold their arms out to space themselves.
4. Slowly demonstrate hummingbird wing stroke:
• palms start facing forward, arms out to side
• move arms forward and rotate palms so they are downward at mid-stroke
• rotate palms again so they are forward again at front of forward sweep and begin to rotate upward as arms sweep back, so they are horizontal and upward at mid-stroke.
1. Ask students to start flapping their arms in a hummingbird hover stroke as fast as they can.
2. Count how many hover strokes they can do in a minute.

### Extensions

• Can you think of a machine that manoeuvres like a hummingbird?

### Other Resources

Stunning Slo-Mo Footage of Hummingbirds Hovering in Air |YouTube | Smithsonian Channel

The Surprising Secrets of Hummingbirds | YouTube| TED-ED

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