The Unfeathered Bird
500 years after Leonardo, the mechanics of bird flight still enthralls.
- By Katrina van Grouw
- Illustrations by Katrina van Grouw
- AirSpaceMag.com, August 02, 2013
The skeletal structure of a hummingbird’s wing is similar to that of a swift—a short, stout, and queerly shaped upper arm, a short forearm, and a long and much enlarged hand section. Hummingbirds, however, move their wings in an entirely different way. Their wingtips describe a figure-eight shape in the air, generating lift on the backward as well as forward strokes rather like a helicopter, whereas most birds power themselves with the downward beat of their wings, using the upstroke merely as a recovery motion. (Above: White-throated Hummingbird.)