Hummingbirds' Keen Sense of Time

Rufous Hummingbird: Courtesy National Park Service

Researchers working in the Canadian Rockies have reported Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) exhibiting some interesting characteristics. T. Andrew Hurly, University of Lethbridge in Alberta, suggests Rufous Hummingbirds have an episodic memory recalling flower location as well as determining when nectar supplies will be replenished. Episodic memory is the ability to associate where and when events will reoccur, such as a flower’s nectar replenishment.

How did Hurly and colleagues test the hummingbirds? As described in the March 7th edition of Current Biology, the researchers specifically tracked Rufous Hummingbirds in their native mountainous habitat. They investigated the hummingbirds by constructing artificial flowers made from syringe tips surrounded by cardboard discs. Artificial flowers were placed in the hummingbird’s natural habitat and restocked with a sugar solution in timed intervals. Half the syringes were filled ten minutes after the male hummingbird drank and the other half were refilled after twenty minutes. Researchers observed the hummingbirds visited appropriate flowers corresponding with time intervals-ten minutes for quickly refilled flowers and twenty minutes for the slower refills.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

That's pretty amazing that those tiny little dinosaur (oh excuse me, hummingbird) brains can accomplish what seems to be a high level of processing.

posted on Sun, 05/14/2006 - 1:27pm
Eleanor Metrey's picture
Eleanor Metrey says:

Well,I know that the Hummingbird is the smallest bird. Hummingbirds may be small, but they are fierce and protect their territory with loud squawks. As small as they are, their wings make a loud sound and go as fast as almost 200, and 300.

posted on Sun, 05/14/2006 - 3:21pm

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