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
It is funny that the smallest bird can be very mean.
I have seen them chase cats away from a tree where they are nesting.
They are aggressive little peckers, for sure.
Wow, you must have a terrific zoom lens or a very calm hummingbird. Beautiful!
Note to self: when this storm passes, put the feeders out.
Has it stopped raining in Seattle ?
Nope! Yesterday wasn't too bad, but a storm's moving in today. Redundant, I know.
Lots of wonderful snow for the ski resorts!
My son lives in West Seattle. Last time we visited, I saw grass growing on the tree moss.
:) Or if ours sees a deer...she goes out there every single day and looks towards the same spot. :) We had a couple coyotes the other day and now she goes into the yard and looks that same direction and barks. :)
The Hummingbirds are unique creatures and so very beautiful. We look forward to their arrival every year and we are saddened when they depart in the fall. :)
The big impression that the baby left on me was that he was so clumsy--the birds we see are so athletic and astonishing in their clever maneuvers that it's hard to imagine them falling onto flowers, then onto the ground, and being all-around clutzy.
So we fed him on impatiens blossoms until he wasn't clumsy anymore and he flew away after a couple of days.
He was about the size of a cashew nut, and would fall into a swoon if you closed your hand about him. Scared me, because I thought he was dead, but woke up as soon light and air hit him.
What a beauty!
My mother used to live on property that bordered the Bear River just north of Sacramento, and there were swarms of Black-Chinned Hummers with their brilliant purple throats. My stepdad would fill three of the big feeders four times a day for the little guys. I used to sit on the stairs leading up to the roof and watch them, and sometimes I'd find myself in the middle of the swarm.
Oh, to have had a camera!
Not entirely true, they don't all do it but some have been photographed
hitching a ride..
Oh, I would love to see a picture of that, do you have one? The geese don't migrate here, stay all winter. Fascinating.
I saw a pic from a telephoto lens taken from a small airplane maybe 30 years ago. It was in an outdoor magazine.
Ever been in the midst of a fight among them? I was in my garden once when a couple must have been battling over something....I just stood there as they whipped around me. (I don't think I was wearing flowers...LOL)
You may not have had a camera, but you still have the picture.
How did they ask the bird?
Could it be the bird just had a routine.
Little guy is saying grace?
A clue to why Democrats don't go extinct.
Hmm, I was looking for pics on the internet and came across this:
Looks like they can't migrate with geese.
Iwent and looked also. I am just saying what I had seen in an outdoor mag about 30 years ago. Also, there are birds that don't leave in time from the north and get stranded.
We get them in our yard because we have honeysuckle bushes but one year I hung a humingbird feeder with sugar water and I got tons of wasps! I threw it away! I love watching the hummingbirds.
Ground hogs also burrow in the ground and you would not expect to see one climb a tree,but, they have been known to do it. They normaly hibernate in the dead of winter, but, I have seen them out in the snow before.
That sounds really neat. When I get swarmed it's usually seagulls. 8>) I have a roll of 35mm around here somewhere of pics of about ten grey jays chasing my son around up at Mowich Lake trying to get his sandwich. I wish I knew where I put that.
We put wasp traps out on either side of our feeders, in the corners of the yard. Wasps are incredibly stupid, and will go inside the traps even though they can clearly see the 20 already in there dead or dying.
They leave my feeders alone now.
Actually, I looked more. Several science sites confirmed the info. The geese fly at too high of an altitude and for too long for the hummingbirds to survive the flight. And, as I was realizing, the geese here do not migrate, so the hummingbird would not find them helpful in getting to tropical zones.
might try! Nothing worse than getting chased by wasps! They've stung my dogs too.
might try! Nothing worse than getting chased by wasps! They've stung my dogs too.