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Hummingbirds Are Like Nature’s Helicopters, Only Better

<p><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/7761856942/sizes/m/" style="text-decoration: none;">Jeffrey W</a></p>

Hummingbirds -- the only birds able to fly in place -- are tiny balls of feathers and muscle, beating their wings up to 80 times per second as they suck nectar out of flowers. And some of these birds are even better hoverers than the most advanced military drones, according to a new report in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Researchers at Stanford University and Wageningen University measured the flight patterns of 12 species of hummingbird. With the help of a device that measures the lift generated by a bird wing, the scientists could determine each hummingbird's aerodynamic efficiency. The most adroit birds were 27 percent more efficient than micro-helicopters, using less power to stay aloft.

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The average hummingbird's hovering ability, in comparison, was just slightly better than the remote helicopter, a Black Hornet drone. That being said, human-made fliers "are not even close to hummingbirds in many other design metrics," Stanford University David Lentink tells the BBC, "such as wind gust tolerance, visual flight control through clutter, to name a few."