Thursday, January 31, 2008

How do Hummingbirds Chirp?

Hummingbird at Howard and South Van Ness

I just read an article on the BBC summarizing a paper that describes how male Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) chirp. For those not familiar with these birds and their behavior, during mating season (around now if you're in San Francisco), the males fly high up in the air then dive down towards their female, reaching speeds of 50 mph. During this dive, the males produce a distinctive chirp. But how? Turns out the chirp is not a vocalization but is a mechanical sound produced by their tail feathers. Neat! The article has some beautiful photos of these birds and links to some great videos of hummingbirds.

If you want to see an Anna's hummingbird for yourself, now's a good time. They're the only hummingbird that's common in Northern California in the winter, and are comfortable nesting in cities and gardens. The males are incredibly distinctive, with both their head and neck covered in rosy-red feathers. Keep an eye out. They're cool little creatures.

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