First shared in the National Geographic feature A Mesmerizing Look at Hummingbirds in Flight, this high-speed video footage by Anand Varma captures these “perfect flying machines” as they fly, shake, and drink. The slow motion work in special testing environments allows us to see incredible details that are normally obscured by their speed. From Unlocking the Secrets Behind the Hummingbird’s Frenzy:

World’s smallest birds is just one of several distinctions that hummingbird species claim. They’re the only birds that can hover in still air for 30 seconds or more. They’re the only birds with a “reverse gear”—that is, they can truly fly backward. And they’re the record holders for the fastest metabolic rate of any vertebrate on the planet: A 2013 University of Toronto study concluded that if hummingbirds were the size of an average human, they’d need to drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda for every minute they’re hovering, because they burn sugar so fast…

By slowing down time, scientists learn more about what happens when biology brushes up against the laws of physics. “There’s stuff that you absolutely do not see with the naked eye,” [ornithologist Christopher] Clark says. “Put a high-speed camera on it, and you’re like, ‘Holy cow! That’s what the bird’s doing?’ ”

Go behind-the-scenes with Varma and see What It Takes to Film Hummingbirds in Slow Motion.

Next, watch another stunning video from Varma’s work with honey bees: The first 21 days of a bee’s life, a time lapse in 64 seconds. Plus: More hummingbirds.

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