How hummingbirds avoid crashes according to ScienceDaily and New Scientist 18 July 2016 and PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1603221113, published online 18 July 2016.

Hummingbirds are incredibly agile and fast flyers. In their natural environment they are able to fly through dense forests at speeds up to 50km per hour without colliding with any obstacles, and accurately approach their food sources (flowers) without crashing into them. Therefore, they need to rapidly assess how fast they are approaching an object, and alter their flight path and speed in order to avoid crashing into it.

To see how the birds managed to manoeuvre through complex environments, scientists at the University of British Columbia, Canada, trained hummingbirds to fly through a tunnel to a feeder containing a sugary liquid like the nectar they normally feed on. The research team projected different moving patterns on the walls of tunnels and tracked the way birds changed course in response to different patterns.

They expected the birds to use a similar method of navigation to bees, which rely how fast objects move across their visual field (optic flow). But as Roslyn Dakin, who led the study explained, “Birds fly faster than insects and it’s more dangerous if they collide with things. We wanted to know how they avoid collisions and we found that hummingbirds use their environment differently than insects to steer a precise course”. It seems the birds relied on change in size of objects as they approached them.

Roslyn Dakin also commented: “When objects grow in size, it can indicate how much time there is until they collide even without knowing the actual size of the object. Perhaps this strategy allows birds to more precisely avoid collisions over the very wide range of flight speeds they use”.

New Scientist, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: This study is a good reminder that it takes more than wings and feathers for a bird to fly. Flying through a dense and complex environment like a forest requires the ability to constantly monitor the surrounding environment, work out where you are in relation to objects in the environment in three dimensions, calculate the trajectory needed to get you where you want to go, and make adjustments to that in order to avoid any obstacles in the way.

As those who are trying to design self-navigating drones will tell you, this requires precision sensors along with considerable computer power to integrate the information collected by the sensors and send instructions to the flying machinery – in the case of the bird, the muscles that control the wings and feathers.

Therefore, before any bird (or other flying creature) could only take to an aerial lifestyle if it had the right eyes and brain, as well as wings. Therefore, it is absurd to the think that flying evolved one step at a time. It is far more logical to believe that birds were made as whole functioning creatures ready for safe take-off, flight and landing, just as Genesis 1 says they were.

Evidence News vol. 17, No. 3
15 March 2017
Creation Research Australia

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