We explored the relationship between wing morphology and flight behavior with respect to sex and age in five species of North American hummingbirds. We first measured the length, chord or “width,“ and area of entire hummingbird wing planforms. We then calculated additional parameters of wing shape and size, including aspect and shape ratios, degree of taper or “pointedness,“ wing loading, and wing disc loading (WDL). Wings of adult males are not only shorter but also more narrow and tapered than those of adult or immature females; immature males have larger wings and lower WDL, more like those of females. A proposed relationship between WDL and territorial behavior and dominance is not supported, given that adult and immature males show similar feeding territoriality outside the breeding season but females rarely do. The more extreme and divergent wings of adult males probably reflect sexual selection in connection with aerial displays that include species-specific sound effects given during the breeding season. North American species are unusual among hummingbirds in showing reversed sexual size-dimorphism (males smaller, with relatively shorter wings), a feature shared with some other small hummingbirds, notably the “Pygmornis“ hermits. Attempts to explain hummingbird foraging and territorial behavior on the basis of differences in WDL have failed because many aspects of wing morphology, physiology, and flight behavior were not taken into account. Several wing parameters appear more related to other modes of flight than to strategies of nectar exploitation, and the morphology of any given wing represents a compromise between the often conflicting aerodynamic demands of different flight modes. Understanding hummingbird flight will require broad comparative studies of wing morphology and wingbeat kinematics in relation to flight behavior, and new theoretical models and experimental data will be needed to elucidate physiological and aerodynamic mechanisms underlying forward flight and maneuvering.
Morfología Alar y Comportamiento de Vuelo de Unas Especies de Colibríes de Norteamérica