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Thread: Hovering versus Kiting

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    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    Default Hovering versus Kiting

    Hey John et. al.,

    I distinctly remember that a very distinguished ornithologist and naturalist, possibly John K. Terrres, told me that only hummingbirds are capable of hovering and that other birds that seemed to hover were actually kiting.

    Care to take a shot at that one??? :D
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    I am not sure about the differences between the terms "hovering" and "kitting" because there is no distinction between both action in my mother language. The wing beat rate of the hummers is the highest in the world of birds and there is no other group of birds capable of such a fast beat rate. Of course, hummers can flight in whatever the direction they choose and no other group of birds can do that. Kestrels and other birds can "hover" but I think that they "hover" in a very different way than hummingbirds do.:D

    BTW, talking about hummingbirds, Artie I was thinking about the possibility of translate into spanish part of the thread "Cool pose" and to post it in BPN spanish forum to help some folks at that forum to fully understand the method. Please, would you mind to post the original image of the hummingbird? I will translate your text into spanish and will upload the other part of the tutorial. Please, let me have your thoughs about it:)

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    Beth Goffe
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    Artie, I think there is a difference between the two and Juan touched on the answer. By virtue of its ability to generate such a high number of wing beats, a hummingbird itself keeps itself aloft and stationary in the air or hover. Terns and other birds remain stationary in the air using the wind flowing over the wings (their airfoils) to maintain lift. Kiting is a good term because of the way the birds use the wind to stay aloft but I think the physics of acutal kites' (the diamond-shaped ones, not the birds ;)) ability to stay aloft is different.

    My pseudo-scientific interpretation for you all. :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Juan Aragonés View Post
    BTW, talking about hummingbirds, Artie I was thinking about the possibility of translate into spanish part of the thread "Cool pose" and to post it in BPN spanish forum to help some folks at that forum to fully understand the method. Please, would you mind to post the original image of the hummingbird? I will translate your text into spanish and will upload the other part of the tutorial. Please, let me have your thoughs about it:)
    Hi Juan, Translate away! I am honored.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    Hi Juan, Translate away! I am honored.
    Thanks to you Artie, would you post the original image to begin with the thread? It would be great to see you in the spanish forum. BTW "point and create" translates into spanish as "apuntar y crear". (just kidding, but I had a lot of fun when I read one post by James Shadle talking about "point and create" :D)

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    Good question Artie! On balance I think I would have to disagree with your learned ornithologist.

    Hovering is rare in the bird world because it is a very energetically costly thing to do. Examples of hoverers are kingfishers, tropicbirds, some falcons and allies, and of course hummers. By "kiting" I take the term to mean that lift is derived in whole or in part by the wind. Larger hovering birds probably need some wind to add to lift derived from wing flapping- for example Ospreys. Smaller birds, not just hummers, are able to hover with no wind, but the method that creates lift differs between species. Smaller kingfishers for example, derive lift from the down sweep of their wing, then fold and turn their wing to minimise loss of lift on the upstroke. Hummers on the other hand are the only bird I am aware of that keep their wings straight on both strokes and derive lift on both strokes. There are many BPN members out there who have a lot of experience with hummers and I'll leave it to them to describe how they hover.
    Last edited by John Chardine; 06-30-2008 at 09:52 AM.

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    I believe that "hovering" denotes the ability to maintain a stable position in the air via the rapid motion of the wings, such as the hummingbird. The term "kiting" implies the ability to maintain a stable position by using the air currents rather than creating that stability as the hummingbird does. However the two terms are used to describe the ability to maintain a stable position.

    Jim

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    Leroy Laverman
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    Here's my two cents for what it's worth. I think the distinction in terms comes from the wing motion of hummingbirds. When hovering they rotate their wings backward, much like a person treading water. Here's a video shot at 5000 fps of a hummer approaching a feeder. ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=QMNMxWS732A&feature=related ) Watch the last 30 seconds in particular. I don't think other birds are capable of this type of wing motion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Juan Aragonés View Post
    Thanks to you Artie, would you post the original image to begin with the thread? It would be great to see you in the spanish forum. BTW "point and create" translates into spanish as "apuntar y crear". (just kidding, but I had a lot of fun when I read one post by James Shadle talking about "point and create" :D)
    Hi Juan, I copied the entire thread to the Spain/latin America Gallery and will assume that you can work from that. Let me know if otherwise. I will, however, be in the Galapagos for ten days.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Morris View Post
    Hi Juan, I copied the entire thread to the Spain/latin America Gallery and will assume that you can work from that. Let me know if otherwise. I will, however, be in the Galapagos for ten days.
    Thank you so much Artie, I will translate just part of the thread (33 posts are too much information to translate:D) In fact I only needed your first post with the hummingbird image to begin with the translation of the most important posts in the thread. Thanks again and have a very nice and productive trip to Galapagos:)

  11. #11
    Shawn Marques
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    Okay, here is my best shot. Hovering is a characteristic of many birds. Take the American kestrel, for example. It is often seen hovering (wings flapping) over the ground or kiting in strong wings (wings held together) in search of food. My wife is a falconer and she was required to know that for her falconry test. Even Tory, her red-tailed hawk, has hovered very briefly over prey before dropping in for the kill during the very still air of early morning.


    Hummingbirds are famous for hovering. They are even more famous for having the ability to fly backwards because they are the only bird that can do so.

    And that is my final answer! :D
    Last edited by Shawn Marques; 07-01-2008 at 05:54 PM.

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    Shawn- So to paraphrase- birds other than hummingbirds can hover too. I agree but Artie's ornithologist friend would not. The only comment of yours I would modify is the statement about hovering being a "characteristic of many birds". In actual fact, very few birds can hover, even in the broad sense of the term, i.e., "kiting".

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    Juan, YOu can keep what you need and delete the rest. No problema.
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions; we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.

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    Shawn Marques
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Chardine View Post
    Shawn- So to paraphrase- birds other than hummingbirds can hover too. I agree but Artie's ornithologist friend would not. The only comment of yours I would modify is the statement about hovering being a "characteristic of many birds". In actual fact, very few birds can hover, even in the broad sense of the term, i.e., "kiting".
    Thanks, John. I stand corrected. A better word would be several instead of many. :)

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    More fun facts about hummers.

    The authors of "Hummingbirds, their life and behavior, a photographic study of the North American species" Esther and Robert Tyrrell say that hummingbirds are superior to all others in flight because not only can they propel themselves forward but also backward or to the left and right, hover motionless and even fly upside down. The only aerial maneuver they can't perform is soaring.

    Dan Brown

  16. #16
    Jeremy Stein
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    Continuing what Dan Brown said above, a further quote from the Tyrrells:

    "There are several other birds that, to the casual observer, may seem to hover. These include the Black-shouldered Kite, the American Kestrel, the Belted Kingfisher, and Leach's Storm Petrel. However, theirs is not a true hovering flight and cannot be sustained for very long."

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    What prompted this thread was an exchange in the educational resources section, in a thread called birds in flight or action: http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...ad.php?t=10088

    The hovering issue started over this image of a black shouldered kite on the Serengeti:
    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries...8715b-700.html

    I responded to one of Art's posts with this:

    Just a scientific clarification. Hummingbirds have developed the most sophisticated hovering ability able to also move backwards, but other birds hover too. For example see:

    http://www.csupomona.edu/~dfhoyt/cla.../CNH_BIRD.HTML
    Classification and Natural History of the Birds
    "We have animals called"kites" which are really beautiful graceful white birds with, like, a V-shaped tail. And many times if you look out in the agricultural fields you'll see some bird sitting there flying perfectly suspended in space. And all of a sudden it swoops down on the ground. That's a kite. Or it might also be another real small animal called a sparrow hawk. Also, these animals are also called Kestrals, American Kestrals. Both are insectivores. They are the smallest ones. You can't be a very big bird and hover. Hovering is the most energetic phase of flight. Only small birds can hover. But both kites and sparrow hawks are able to hover."

    So in response to this thread, I went back and checked my photos. I photographed the kite near our safari vehicle for 5 minutes. I note on my web page that the kite was still in the viewfinder of the 1D2 at 700mm. I even took my hands off the camera and the kite just stayed in the viewfinder. I recall no wind, and I went back and looked at my photos before and after. Blades of grass were standing straight up with no evidence of movement from frame to frame, and the same with hair on animals. There was no wind and therefore the kite could not have been kiting. I distinctly remember the back and forth motion of the kite's wings that were similar to slow motion video of hummingbirds wings.
    The kite hovers.

    Other references:
    http://www.hawk-conservancy.org/priors/bskite.shtml
    "When not perched it flies at a height of 50-200 feet over the grasslands, hovering at intervals, ..."

    Here is a you tube video of a black shouldered kite. You can see by the trees that there is no perceptible wind, and you can see the back and forth motion of the bird's wings.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFpVf...eature=related

    Roger Clark

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    I totally agree Roger. Other birds hover. Hummingbirds are just the best at it. Thanks for your input and all others (keep it coming if there is more to say). This has been a very enlightening thread so far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Marques View Post
    Okay, here is my best shot. Hovering is a characteristic of many birds. Take the American kestrel, for example. It is often seen hovering (wings flapping) over the ground or kiting in strong wings (wings held together) in search of food. My wife is a falconer and she was required to know that for her falconry test. Even Tory, her red-tailed hawk, has hovered very briefly over prey before dropping in for the kill during the very still air of early morning.


    Hummingbirds are famous for hovering. They are even more famous for having the ability to fly backwards because they are the only bird that can do so.

    And that is my final answer! :D
    Thanks, Shawn. Final but I believe, wrong. If there is wind involved, the bird is kiting.

    with love, artie
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions; we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Chardine View Post
    Good question Artie! On balance I think I would have to disagree with your learned ornithologist.

    Hovering is rare in the bird world because it is a very energetically costly thing to do. Examples of hoverers are kingfishers, tropicbirds, some falcons and allies, and of course hummers. By "kiting" I take the term to mean that lift is derived in whole or in part by the wind. Larger hovering birds probably need some wind to add to lift derived from wing flapping- for example Ospreys. Smaller birds, not just hummers, are able to hover with no wind, but the method that creates lift differs between species. Smaller kingfishers for example, derive lift from the down sweep of their wing, then fold and turn their wing to minimise loss of lift on the upstroke. Hummers on the other hand are the only bird I am aware of that keep their wings straight on both strokes and derive lift on both strokes. There are many BPN members out there who have a lot of experience with hummers and I'll leave it to them to describe how they hover.
    Belated thanks, John. The "friend" that I quoted was the late great ornithologist and writer, John K. Torres, who put together the Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds.
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions; we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.

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