Hummingbirds: Up close and personal

It takes a filming speed of 200-to-500 frames per second to capture the fast-moving world of the hummingbird at a level where we can really see what's going on. So what are hummingbirds up to? Videographers for a Nature documentary caught hummingbirds foraging for insects, bonking each other on the head in order to get access to a tasty flower, and living happily in high mountains where they hop along the ground to feed off plants growing close to the soil.

Filmmaker Ann Prum explains the nifty technical nitty gritty behind making a movie about hummingbirds and how new ways of observing the birds are teaching us new things about their lives.

Via mentalfloss


  1. Ever since we planted bee balm flowers, we’ve been blessed with many hummingbirds. It’s fun to watch them hover. I sit on my back porch and watch them float through the air. Oddly, they seem attracted also to a sun-shaped wind chime hanging nearby. They approach it as if it were a flower, then realize their mistake and fly off.
    Wonderful creatures; they create peace in my heart.

  2. I loves me some hummers. But this promo film, well…did anyone else feel like it was cut in the most frustrating way? As if, just when you’re really getting into each shot of a slo-mo bird doing its twisty-flappy thing they cut to Ms. Prum, or a camera blind? Watching this was like having a tooth extracted by little kisses.

  3. My favorite part was the hummingbird disco/torture chamber halfway through.

    “We’ve brought the hummingbird into our laboratory, switched its nectar for MDMA, and focused strobing lights and lasers upon it. Let’s see what happens.”

  4. in my observations, i have concluded (outside the tiny-vertibrates-are-cute bias) that in the “critter politics” vein… they can be apocalyptic pricks to one another.

    by default, this tends to be a common M.O. spanning mother earth’s inhabitants, but perhaps it’s the tiny/cute vs. winged thug/tyrant contrast that, in my my mind, makes them stand out.

  5. Cool! I made a video about hummingbirds a few weeks ago. Also in slow-mo, though not slowed down quite as much. Checkit:

  6. @tomrigid: You could just watch the entire episode. It’s available at the PBS Web site:

    @Anon, #6: As my husband and fellow hummingbird researcher says, anyone who thinks hummingbirds are cute and sweet hasn’t been paying attention. They may look like fairies, but they act like Tasmanian devils. When you live as close to the line between life and death as a hummingbird does, you take your life-sustaining resources any way you can get them, including taking them away from someone else.

  7. Our home is literally in the treetops, as such there are hummingbirds everywhere. We recently built an addition to our deck and our contractor was constantly being buzzed, as I have been many times while refilling the feeders. I also notice that when I am watering my flowers, a “hummer” will often fly up and play in the water. My favorite is to sit on my deck and watch the dogfights that go on around the feeders. They remind me of little Harrier jets, the way they go from top speed to hover in an instant. Lastly I have started to photograph hummingbirds, the colors when looked at in detail on a monitor are breathtaking. The fact that I went to the step of signing up for this website as a submitter, so I could pen this,is an indication of how fascinating and bewitching these little marvels are.

  8. odd how what a great many of us have known for a long time (and have photos to support our knowledge) this film and this film-maker makes sound as if it is groundbreaking and new! hummingbirds eat insects. of course. they love to hang around spider’s webs and steal from these lairs. not news. while they may have had to set up a lab to prove the already-known, many of us have these photos taken in the wild, without all the hoopla and machinery.

    still, i am the first to give full credit where it is due. and this film is tremendous!!! what a remarkable chronicle of this amazing bird.

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