Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Hummingbirds for showing us
the unique capabilities of the hummingbirds

Magic in the Air

These tiny marvels dazzle and delight.

Hummingbirds (2010) - 73 minutes
Hummingbirds at

Hummingbirds take extraordinary to a whole new level. They are the smallest warm-blooded creatures on the planet, but they are also among the fastest. With wings that beat up to 200 times every second, they are among nature's most accomplished athletes, the only birds able to hover, fly backwards, and even upside down.

Because hummingbirds live their lives in fast-forward, much of their fascinating world is typically lost to human perception. But using cameras able to capture over 500 images a second, the hummingbirds' magical world can finally be seen and appreciated. Amazing footage shows these little powerhouses are far more than delicate nectar gatherers - they are also deadly predators. And watch the birds display their elaborate mating rituals, showing off with nose dives that subject them to over ten G's of force - enough to cause an experienced fighter pilot to black out.

They tiny marvels dazzle and delight bird watchers all over the world, and Nature reveals their stunning abilities as they have never been seen before. Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham narrates.

8-27-21 Female hummingbirds may sport flashy feathers to avoid being harassed
It’s not all about sex. Pretty plumage can evolve to give other social advantages, scientists say. Some female hummingbirds don flashy feathers to avoid being bothered by other hummingbirds, a new study suggests. Male white-necked jacobin hummingbirds (Florisuga mellivora) have bright blue heads and throats. Females tend to have more drab hues, but some sport the blue coloring too. Appearing fit and fine to impress potential mates can often explain animals’ vibrant colors. But mate choice doesn’t seem to drive these females’ pretty plumage since males don’t appear to prefer the blue females. Instead, bright colors may help lady birds blend in with the guys, and as a result, feed for longer without harassment from other hummingbirds, researchers report August 26 in Current Biology. Beyond vying for mates, animals often also compete for territory, parental attention, social ranks and food (SN: 4/7/16). Mating choices don’t capture all those other interactions and can’t always explain animals’ looks, says Jay Falk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. To begin investigating why some female jacobins have colorful blue plumage, Falk and colleagues captured and released over 400 of the birds in Gamboa, Panama, using genetics to determine their sex. Most females had drab colors — olive green heads and backs and mottled throats. But nearly 30 percent of females had the shimmery blue noggins that all juveniles have and that are characteristic of adult males. These birds develop the bright colors in their adolescence, when the birds aren’t yet looking for mates, and for some lady hummers, the colors persist into adulthood when most females drop the bright colors. If these colors in females were driven by mate choice, then this is “the exact opposite of what you would expect,” says Falk, who did the work while at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa.

8-17-21 Sunbirds’ dazzling feathers are hot, in both senses of the word
A metallic sheen attracts mates but warms easily, possibly making it harder to keep cool. The birds’ flashy, iridescent feathers heat up more than other types of feathers, possibly making it harder to stay cool in hot, sunny conditions. If so, the colorful plumes may be costly ornaments for luring mates, researchers report August 4 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Many studies on the thermal properties of animal color have previously focused on differences between how dark and light colors derived from pigments react to light and heat, says Svana Rogalla, a biophysicist at the Biofisika Institute in Bilbao, Spain. Less attention has been paid to how heat interacts with structural color — often vibrant, iridescent hues created by light refracting off of microscopic structures. These structures are found in everything from the scales of deep-sea worms (SN: 5/25/20) to spiders’ exoskeletons (SN: 9/9/16). In the new study, Rogalla and colleagues turned to sunbirds, nectar-feeding birds typically smaller than sparrows that are native to Africa, Asia and Australia. Sunbirds have feather colors that come from a mix of sources, including pigments like fiery carotenoids and dark melanin as well as iridescent structural color. The researchers examined 15 sunbird species preserved at the Field Museum in Chicago, heating the specimens under a lamp that mimics sunlight and then measuring the surface temperatures of feathers and the preserved birds’ skin. Iridescent feathers heated up more than feathers that had only pigment-based colors, the team found. In breast feathers, for example, iridescent feathers averaged about 74° Celsius at the feather surface after a few minutes of light exposure, where feathers with yellow to red carotenoid pigments reached just over 63° C. This heat transferred to the skin, too, with skin under iridescent feathers growing about 5 degrees C and 8 degrees C hotter than skin under feathers with olive or yellow to red pigments.

9-9-20 Hummingbirds can drop their body temperature below 4°C when they rest
Hummingbirds can enter a hibernation-like state at night, dropping their body temperature to under 4°C in an effort to preserve energy for use during the day. The birds are among the few animals, including night hawks and some small rodents, that are capable of torpor, in which body function reduces to a bare minimum for a few hours, says Blair Wolf at the University of New Mexico. Previous studies have found that hummingbirds can drop their body temperature from 40°C to about 17°C at night, but now Wolf and his colleagues have found that some species can go much further, reaching 3.26°C. “You’d think they’re frozen,” he says. “They feel like a cold rock.” By day, the birds expend massive amounts of energy, hovering while consuming nectar from 400 to 600 flowers. At night, they can reduce energy expenditure by upwards of 95 percent. Even their heart rate drops, falling from 1000 beats per minute down to around 50, says Wolf. He and his team studied six species of hummingbirds thriving at up to 4000 metres above sea level in the Peruvian Andes. They trapped individuals overnight and inserted tiny probes into the cloaca (hind orifice) to monitor body temperatures from evening to morning, including the 12 night-time hours when outdoor temperatures dropped to between 2 and 6°C. Most of the birds, representing all six species, entered torpor in bouts lasting from two to almost 13 hours, says Wolf. Body temperatures varied, but it was the black metaltail species that came closest to outdoor temperatures, hitting a low of 3.26°C. At around sunrise, the birds started quivering, increasing body temperature by more than 1°C per minute. Although reheating requires a lot of energy, the amount saved by staying in torpor exceeded this cost. The team weighed the birds and found that those spending less time in torpor lost more weight, indicating they had used more energy in the night.

9-9-20 This hummingbird survives cold nights by nearly freezing itself solid
The black metaltail goes into a state of suspended animation, becoming ‘cold as a rock’. The high Andes mountains of Peru are a hummingbird’s paradise, rich in wildflower nectar and low in predators. But there’s one problem: the cold. Nighttime temperatures often dip below freezing in these rainy tropical highlands. How does a six-gram bird that needs nectar from 500 flowers a day just to survive get enough extra energy to keep itself warm all night? It doesn’t. Instead, as temperatures drop with the sun, these hummingbirds enter a state of suspended animation known as torpor. One species, the black metaltail (Metallura phoebe), chills to 3.26° Celsius, the coldest body temperature ever recorded in a bird or non-hibernating mammal, researchers report September 9 in Biology Letters. “They’re cold as a rock,” says Blair Wolf, a physiological ecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. “If you didn’t know better you’d think they were dead.” Cooling to near-death temperatures lets the hummingbirds save precious energy, allowing them to survive the cold night and gear up to feed the next day, Wolf says. Torpor had been observed before in hummingbirds, but Wolf and his colleagues wanted a more detailed picture. They placed 26 individuals of six different species in cages overnight and inserted the equivalent of miniature rectal thermometers into their cloacas. Perched and upright, the birds pointed their bills upwards, fluffed their feathers and stopped moving. All of the species entered some kind of torpor, but the black metaltail cooled the most, dropping from a daytime temperature of about 40° C to just above freezing. During the day, these hummingbirds’ tiny-yet-mighty hearts can beat 1,200 times a minute to power their frenetic lifestyle. But during torpor, their heart rates plummet to as low as 40 beats a minute. “It’s an astounding drop,” Wolf says, and it could allow these high-altitude birds to cut their energy use by about 95 percent. By not wasting energy trying to stay warm, these birds can thrive as high as 5,000 meters above sea level. “It’s a remarkable adaptation.”

2-8-18 Trove of hummingbird flight data reveals secrets of nimble flying
Trove of hummingbird flight data reveals secrets of nimble flying. Lab-grade flight tracking has gone wild, creating a broad new way of studying some of the flashiest of natural acrobats, wild hummingbirds. One of the findings: Bigger hummingbird species don’t seem handicapped by their size when it comes to agility. A battleship may not be as maneuverable as a kayak, but in a study of 25 species, larger hummingbirds outdid smaller species at revving or braking while turning. Measurements revealed these species have more muscle capacity and their wings tended to be proportionately larger for their body size than smaller species. Those boosts could help explain how these species could be so agile despite their size, researchers report in the Feb. 9 Science. Adapting a high-speed camera array and real-time tracking software to perform in field conditions let the researchers analyze more than 200 wild birds swerving and pivoting naturally. With over 330,000 bird maneuvers recorded, the researchers could compare the agility of the different species. It’s the first comparative study of natural flight moves in wild birds, says coauthor Roslyn Dakin, who is based in Ottawa with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Magic in the Air

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Hummingbirds for showing us
the unique capabilities of the hummingbirds