# Re: Altitude effects on hummingbird flight?

----- Original Message ----- From: "don ohmes" <d_ohmes@yahoo.com>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Thursday, December 21, 2006 10:44 AM
Subject: Re: Altitude effects on hummingbird flight?

No, a number of other, much larger birds use hovering -- but they do it by
means of a different technique, full alternating momentum reversal (the flutter stroke).
You will see hawks doing it regularly while hunting, and they are for the
most part, larger than hummingbirds.

------------- Not as a primary form of locomotion, they don't.

No, of course not. They use it for hovering, not locomotion. The same is true of hummingbirds and those bats that hover.

Especially in still air.
`Umh, what does still air have to do with it?`

If you define "hovering" as "remaining stationary relative to the ground", yeah, lots of stuff "hovers",

I don't know of anyone who defines that as hovering. Do you? Hovering is remaining stationary relative to the ground in still, uniform air.

especially in moving air.

Again, what does moving air, per se, have to do with it? As you know, for animals in flight to extract energy from the atmosphere, there has to be shear, turbulence, or some form of updraft present. A uniform wind has no effect whatever on the physics of flight, except for the special case where some part of the animal's body is in direct physical contact with a second medium of differing density.

Perhaps I should have said, "largest observed species using hovering as a primary form of locomotion...",

I don't interpret hovering as a form of locomotion (with locomotion being a means of translating through space). However, accepting your definition for the moment. The largest hummingbirds weigh about 19-20 grams. The largest bats that hover (for durations similar to hummingbirds) weigh about 30-32 grams. The largest birds that hover for similar durations by means of full alternating momentum reversal weigh hundred to perhaps thousands of grams. I've not checked to see which is the largest bird known to make use of the technique, but they are quite big relative to hummingbirds and most bats.

but as I was discussing evolutionary scenarios, I didn't think it necessary. IIRC, Pennycuick says pigeons are about maximal for "hovering" in _still air_, and that is momentary (less than 4 min), not primary.

Umh, even in hummingbirds, most hovering is for durations of a few seconds only. Fifteen seconds is a pretty long time even for hummingbirds. Pigeons are pretty good sized. And, I suspect that Colin's definition of 'still' air may be somewhat different from yours. As an aside, Colin's knowledge of vertebrate flight is truly extraordinary. He has my utmost admiration.

Unless it is a functional bottleneck relative to ecology, it seems unlikely to control flight morphs...
`I've lost track.  What does "it" refer to in the sentence above?`

------------ No functional equivalence, no convergence. Not a primary form of locomotion, no equivalence. The African species sounds interesting. On my list of things to do.

I believe you and I may also have a slightly different definition for the term "locomotion". I define it as "The act of moving from place to place. The ability to move from place to place". How do you define it?

------------- It all seems downright weird to me.
`Yeah.  All of life is truly weird.  Which is what makes it so fascinating.`

JimC