can birds hover in one spot

1 Answer 1 Sorted by:

Doing a stationary flight is called hovering (as @kmm said in the comments).

With head wind

Many birds can fly still when there is a head wind, even if it’s not very strong. However, in the birds referential the flight is not stationary. It is typically common to see that for see birds.

True hovering

In absence of head wind, most birds arent able to hover. There are a few exceptions. Hummingbirds hover while feeding on nectar. Some birds of prey are able to hover (they do so for hunting purposes) such as the common kestrel for example. While fishing, the pied kingfisher is famous for its hovering behaviour.

Anatomy and metabolic cost

Generally speaking, hovering requires flapping its wings very fast and is therefore energetically very costly. From wikipedia


Here are some videos of birds hovering:

Hovering Flight: Some birds, like kestrels, fly into the wind at a speed equal to the wind and remain motionless, “wind hovering,” above a point on the ground; other birds hover briefly while they forage. Hummingbirds, however, are true hoverers because they can stay in one spot in still air for as long as they like. Hovering hummers maintain a body angle of approximately 45 degrees relative to the ground and move their wings in a motion resembling a figure-eight, with the “eight” resting on its side. Because of their highly flexible shoulder joint, Hummers are able to twist their wings to produce lift on both their forward and backward strokes. The wing’s front edge leads on both strokes, and on the backstroke, the feathers’ underside faces upward due to the shoulder rotation, which effectively turned the wing upside down. The bird is able to utilize some of the energy it used to propel the air during its previous wing sweep in each stroke. For example, the wing’s airspeed increases during the forward stroke because it is moving through air that was pushed toward the bird’s back during the backstroke. Between the forward and backward strokes, the thrust direction changes, canceling each other out. The bird’s body is essentially held motionless by inertia because its wings beat at a rate of more than 20 beats per second, and occasionally as fast as 80 beats per second. Hummingbirds can hover and move very quickly thanks to this system, which also enables them to gather nectar from flowers that they might not otherwise be able to. However, the ability to hover is highly costly: hummingbirds’ breast muscles account for about 30% of their total body weight, compared to about 20% for strong-flying birds and possibly as little as 15% for weak-flying ones. If the hummers’ wings didn’t constantly move through the air at an accelerated speed from the previous wing stroke, they would need to put in even more muscle. SEE: Adaptations for Flight; Wing Shapes and Flight. Copyright ® 1988 by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye.


Can birds hover in one place?

The hummingbird is the only bird that can truly hover. It manages this by flapping its wings 20 to 80 times a second.

Can birds stay in one spot in the air?

Hovering Flight. Some birds, such as kestrels, remain motionless “wind hovering” above a point on the ground by flying into the wind at a speed equal to that of the wind, and other birds hover momentarily while foraging.

Why would a bird fly in one spot?

When there is a (relatively important) head wind, many birds are able to perform stationary flights. However, in the bird’s referential the flight is not stationary. It is typically common to see that for see birds. In absence of head wind, most birds aren’t able to hover.

How do birds hover without flapping?

Soaring birds that wish to stay aloft without flapping in normal wind usually fly INTO the wind for lift. But that same wind that holds them up slows their forward movements. In order to get somewhere, soaring birds make delicate adjustments to turn slightly now and then.