Breaking: Some Hummingbirds Mix in a Twist to their Mating Rituals


source– In most North American hummingbirds, males court females by diving at them head on — but Costa’s hummingbirds (Calypte costae) perform their courtship dives off to the side. Researchers now find that this strategy allows the males to aim sounds at potential mates as if they were using a megaphone.

During high-speed courtship dives, males fan their tails at the last second to create a high-pitched chirp. The faster the dive, the more those tail feathers vibrate and the higher the pitch created by the would-be Romeos. Researchers suspect that females prefer higher-pitched dives, which results in various strategies to boost the frequency of the noise a male makes.

A study published on 12 April in Current Biology finds that male Costa’s hummingbirds can twist half of their tail feathers in the direction of the female, manipulating the volume and pitch of their chirps …. The researchers suspect that the targeted noise also masks audio cues that the females can use to judge how fast the males are diving.

“You can think of the feather as being like a flashlight,” says Chris Clark, an ornithologist at the University of California, Riverside. “If you point the flashlight straight at something, the light is much brighter. And if you look at it from the side, at a 90-degree angle, there’s still some light but not nearly as much.”

Using high-speed cameras and a specialized wind tunnel that measures sound levels and direction, Clark found that male Costa’s hummingbirds are able to boost their dive sounds by as much as 11 decibels — compared to straight-tailed dives — by aiming the chirps at females. “Eleven decibels would be quite noticeable to a human,” he says. “A 10-decibel difference is the difference between a fairly quiet room and a somewhat noisy room.”

“I never could have predicted any of this,” says Doug Altshuler, an integrative biologist who studies hummingbird flight at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The tail-turning paper is just the latest in a long line of surprising discoveries Clark has added to the literature, he says. “I think it is very likely to wind up in textbooks as an exemplary case of sexual selection.”

Folks, when I say this study comes as a huge relief, you better believe I’m not exaggerating. Considering how slow science typically moves, I was beginning to think I would die before I found out the intricacies of the Costa’s hummingbird mating technique. Well, let me tell you, this is the biggest news to cross my desk in a long time.

I totally get where the Costa’s hummingbird is coming from, here. Talking to girls face to face is scary. Talking to any stranger face to face is tough, that’s why I just live online. There’s no pressure in interacting with someone through the Internet. Just like there’s no pressure directing your chirps at a lovely lady from an odd angle. The Costa’s hummingbird pretty much invented bird sexting. All parties involved know that the chirp isn’t a realistic depiction of the bird himself. Like the hummingbird with the highest pitch chirp isn’t necessarily the most handsome hummingbird. He’s just the best at manipulating his environment to create an exaggerated image of himself that makes him seem like an adequate partner. I respect that. I respect that a lot, actually.

Now, I can’t be 100% in on the Costa’s hummingbird’s vibe. If you’ve got those feathers you can’t be the insecure guy who has to doctor their chirp. That’s just a slap in the face to God. You either look good or have personality. You can’t have both. Leave these kind of theatrics and deception to the ugly birds out there. You know how needs to trick females into mating with him? This guy:


You know who needs to spend hours agonizing over the correct angles and when to break off their dive and when to chirp, because they know without a perfectly executed mating ritual, their looks enough aren’t enough? Him:


You know who can roll out of bed and pick up females left and right? The Costa’s hummingbird.


So while I appreciate the average Costa’s hummingbird male’s struggle and latent insecurity, maybe just take a look in the mirror or something. Believe me, things could be a lot worse.

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