Do hummingbirds use landmarks to find flowers?

Original paper: Pritchard, D. J., Scott, R. D., Healy, S. D., & Hurly, A. T. (2016). Wild rufous hummingbirds use local landmarks to return to rewarded locations. Behavioural processes, 122, 59-66.

If you want to find out more, here is the paper!

Hummingbirds are incredible creatures: they can flap their wings up to 50 times per second and are not only capable of hovering in mid-air, they can also fly sideways and even backwards! But that doesn’t come for free: To cover the high energy loss, they have to be quite reliably and efficiently when looking for flowers to feed on the sweet nectar! Researchers wanted to find out how hummingbirds orientate themselves to find flowers reliably and efficiently. One theory was that they might use landmarks for orientation, which is pretty much like us using signs or knowing we have to take a turn after the big yellow house. David Pritchard and his colleagues trained wild rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) to feed from an artificial flower that was surrounded by a set of landmarks. By moving the landmarks and observing the birds’ behaviour, they found out that the birds kept on orientating themselves based on the landmarks instead of looking for the food at the original location.



Contact the illustrator

Alina Loth



Contact the researcher

Dr. David Pritchard


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