The flight energetics of hovering hummingbirds was examined by simultaneous collection of metabolic and kinematic data followed by a morphometric analysis of wing characteristics. These data were then used for an aerodynamic analysis of the power output required to generate sufficient lift; this, together with the metabolic power input, allowed an estimate of the flight efficiency. The use of two closely related species demonstrated common design features despite a marked difference in wing loading. Considerations of the inertial power costs strongly suggest that hummingbirds are able to store kinetic energy elastically during deceleration of the wing stroke. This analysis predicts that hummingbirds hover with a muscle power output close to 100–120 W kg-1 at 9–11 % mechanochemical efficiency.
- © 1993 by Company of Biologists