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NATURE: Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air

Airs Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 8 p.m. & Sunday, June 16 at 4 p.m. on KPBS TV

White-necked Jacobin

Credit: Matt Bradbury

Above: White-necked Jacobin

Hummingbirds represent one of nature's most interesting paradoxes --they are the tiniest of birds, yet they qualify as some of the toughest and most energetic creatures on the planet. With wings that beat up to 200 times every second, they are among nature’s most accomplished athletes, the only birds able to hover, fly backwards, and even upside down.

Filmmaker's Field Notes

On this interactive map, check out some of the locations that filmmaker Ann Prum visited during the making of "Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air."

The smallest of all warm-blooded creatures, hummingbirds live only in the Americas. Many found in North America are seasonal migrants who can live up to 12 years. With nearly 350 different species, these little Americans owe their genetic diversity to their unusual diet of nectar, extreme metabolism and incredible survival instincts.

They are ingenious adaptors and expert aerial predators. Their ability to hover is unique in the avian world. Other evolutionary engineering include the seemingly variety of bills naturally designed to hunt insects and to feed from complicated blossoms with secret nectar chambers. It’s no wonder they are the essential pollinators for over 8000 plant species.

New knowledge gained from scientists currently making great breakthroughs in hummingbird biology makes this a perfect time to focus on these shimmering, flashing jewels of the natural world.

Stunningly beautiful high-definition, high speed footage of hummingbirds in the wild combined with high-tech presentations of their remarkable abilities help us to understand the world of hummingbirds as we never have before.

Do you have a great hummingbird photo? Add your photos to the NATURE Flickr group with the tag “hummingbird.” After they’re approved, they’ll show up in this slideshow on the NATURE website.

This program originally aired in 2010.

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Nature: Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air Preview

Watch a preview of NATURE "Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air."

Behind the Scenes of "Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air"

The entire documentary "Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air" is available for online viewing. We all have preconceived ideas about what hummingbirds' lives are like, but so much of their world is imperceptible to the human eye. Filmmaker Ann Prum describes the breakthrough science and latest technologies that allowed her and the crew to reveal incredible new insights about these aerial athletes.

Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air: Hovering

Biologist Doug Altshuler has turned his lab into a kind of hummingbird training center, where he can test the limits of their aerial agility. The key, he says, is hovering.

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