Synchronization of speed, sound and iridescent color in a hummingbird aerial courtship dive

Benedict G. Hogan, Mary Caswell Stoddard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Many animal signals are complex, often combining multimodal components with dynamic motion. To understand the function and evolution of these displays, it is vital to appreciate their spatiotemporal organization. Male broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) perform dramatic U-shaped courtship dives over females, appearing to combine rapid movement and dive-specific mechanical noises with visual signals from their iridescent gorgets. To understand how motion, sound and color interact in these spectacular displays, we obtained video and audio recordings of dives performed by wild hummingbirds. We then applied a multi-angle imaging technique to estimate how a female would perceive the male’s iridescent gorget throughout the dive. We show that the key physical, acoustic and visual aspects of the dive are remarkably synchronized—all occurring within 300 milliseconds. Our results highlight the critical importance of accounting for motion and orientation when investigating animal displays: speed and trajectory affect how multisensory signals are produced and perceived.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5260
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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