Treating hummingbirds as feathered bees: a case of ethological cross-pollination

D. J. Pritchard*, M. C. Tello Ramos, F. Muth, S. D. Healy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Hummingbirds feed from hundreds of flowers every day. The properties of these flowers provide these birds with a wealth of information about colour, space and time to guide how they forage. To understand how hummingbirds might use this information, researchers have adapted established laboratory paradigms for use in the field. In recent years, however, experimental inspiration has come less from other birds, and more from looking at other nectar-feeders, particularly honeybees and bumblebees, which have been models for foraging behaviour and cognition for over a century. In a world in which the cognitive abilities of bees regularly make the news, research on the influence of ecology and sensory systems on bee behaviour is leading to novel insights in hummingbird cognition. As methods designed to study insects in the laboratory are being applied to hummingbirds in the field, converging methods can help us identify and understand convergence in cognition, behaviour and ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170610
Number of pages6
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number12
Early online date6 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Bees
  • Cognitive ecology
  • Foraging
  • Hummingbirds
  • Navigation
  • Trap-lining


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