Skip to comments.Hummingbirds have superb memories of last meals
Posted on 03/08/2006 6:42:13 AM PST by GreenFreeper
OTTAWA (AFP) - The tiny Rufous hummingbird is able to recall where and when it last dined on the sweet nectar of flowers, according to new research, proving bird brains are smarter than first thought.
The study found the bird, with a brain no bigger than a grain of rice and which feeds on hundreds of flowers each day, could pinpoint the location of flowers it had visited and when the bit of nectar in each would be replenished.
Such episodic memory was previously thought to be exclusive to humans.
"This shows that animals have better memories than we thought and that you don't need a large brain for some complex tasks," study co-author Andrew Hurly told AFP.
"This is an animal whose brain is 7,000 times smaller than ours. It's pretty remarkable that they can combine space information and time intervals together and update them constantly throughout the day. It's a very sophisticated thing to do," the biology professor at the University of Lethbridge in western Canada said.
The groundbreaking study by Canadian and British scientists was published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.
Scientists followed three rust-colored male birds during their summer migration through Canada's Rocky Mountains, recording how often they visited eight artificial flowers filled with a sucrose solution.
Half of the flowers were refilled at 10-minute intervals and the rest at 20-minute intervals after they had been sucked dry.
Researchers found the birds soon returned to the flowers according to the refill schedule.
Hurly speculated its special cognitive skills are necessary for the hummingbird's survival.
The birds, which weigh a mere 3.2 grams, migrate from southern United States and Mexico to breeding grounds in Alaska, traveling some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) -- the longest known bird migration proportionate to size.
"It would be a waste of time for a hummingbird to return to (spent) flowers. It would be using too much energy. Hummingbirds are so tiny and their hearts beat so fast, it's really important for them to forage efficiently," Hurly said.
Previous experiments with laboratory animals found similar abilities after extensive training, but this is the first such observation in the wild where the subjects may be distracted by predators, courtships or other, he said.
"This is not a bird sitting on a perch in a quiet laboratory and trying to remember the time lapse between a beep and food being delivered."
The tiny Rufous hummingbird, such as the one seen here in Mexico City, is able to recall where and when it last dined on the sweet nectar of flowers, according to new research, proving bird brains are smarter than first
FReepmail me to be added or removed to the ECO-PING list!
This isn't too surprising as hummingbirds often come back to the same feeders year after year.
"Such episodic memory was previously thought to be exclusive to humans."
Wow guess they didn't have cats or dogs. If mine kill some little critter, they check back in the same spot about 10 times a day for days on end to see if another little critter's going to appear there.
I was walking down the beach once wearing a Hawaiian shirt with big hibiscus flowers on it and a hummingbird flew up to me and "inspected" the flowers on the shirt for a few seconds before flying off to find a real meal!..........
I always suspected I might be part hummingbird.
Hummingbirds are cool, for sure. I have feeders out for them here in Minnesota. From the very beginning of the season, I can stand under a feeder, hold my finger out near one of the holes in the feeder, and the little guys will land on my finger and drink.
They're absolutely fearless.
Now, If I can get them to remember where I left that 3mm allen wrench...
Note to self..do not wear shirts with animals deemed meals by birds of prey.
He sits up in the trees and chases off any others that try to use his stations. So...a second team will come in and with one acting as a decoy, allows the other to feed and then the team trades positions.
My stepdad was wearing a red cap with yellow vent holes when a hummingbird drilled his head right through one of the vents. He thought he'd been stung by a really big bee.
No carrion luggage for you.
Don't know if y'all know this but these little creatures will hith a ride on a goose during migration.
LOL!! No Mickey Mouse ears either.......
This man is cetainly celebrating the news:
A hummingbird ran into the window in my husband's radio room a couple of years ago and knocked himself out. My husband picked him up and brought him in and fed him for 3 or 4 days until he could fly without listing to one side or spiraling downward. I believe that it was the same one who kept coming back and sitting on the window sill and looking in. We had a feeder right outside the window at the time.
Note to self ... USE THE SPELL CHECKER
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.