08 Sep '11, 6pm

A Hummingbird's Musical Tail

If you’re a male hummingbird, singing your song is not always enough. Sometimes you have to play the same tune with your tail, by plummeting through the sky while letting your tail feathers do the singing. In a paper published today in Science, Christopher J. Clark, Damian Elias, and Richard Prum explain this unusual method of sound production for the first time: “We show that these sounds are produced by air flowing past a feather, causing it to aeroelastically flutter and generate flutter-induced sound.… Neighboring feathers can be aerodynamically coupled and flutter either at the same frequency, resulting in sympathetic vibrations that increase loudness, or at different frequencies, resulting in audible interaction frequencies. Aeroelastic flutter is intrinsic to stiff airfoils such as feathers and thus explains tonal sounds that are common in bird flight…. Although aer...

Full article: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/a-hummingbir...

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