Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly backwards for a significant amount of time. That’s because the wing’s muscular structure is essentially a ball-and-socket joint that allows the wing to move up, down, side to side. Not only that, but they can also rotate their wings, forming a figure-eight. That’s why hummingbirds also have some impressive acrobatic abilities while flying.
This is unique to hummingbirds because the wing structure of most birds has strong muscles that pull the wing down and only weaker muscles that pull the wing back. This means the air around the wing is forced backwards, which propels the bird forward.
While hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards for significant periods of time, birds such as herons, egrets, warblers and flycatchers can all fly backwards for short distances—mainly as their respective defensive strategies.
On a windy day, birds like cuckoos appear to fly backwards, but they are still moving forward relative to the air.
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I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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