Understating pollinator-plan networks

Ecology Experiment


Institution Affiliation

Understating pollinator-plan networks

The hummingbird is one of the smallest birds in the world and is mostly found in the Americas. Interestingly, it is the only bird that can fly backward. The name humming is derived from the humming sound it makes with its wings as they flap at very high speed sometimes between 12 to 90 times per second. However, this is dependent on the species and the size of an individual bird. These birds have a very short lifespan, with most of them not able to survive a year after they are born with many dying after three to four years.

Hummingbirds feed on nectar from plants and usually live in the western hemisphere. They are specifically found in Canada and Alaska to Terra del Fuego. They live in families made up of about 340 species and have an extraordinarily diverse morphology, behavior, and ecology (Biddick & Burns, 2018). Almost all their diet is based on nectar, which is a dilute solution found in plant flowers containing various types of sugars. These sugars are easily converted into energy through the process of digestion and fulfill the carbohydrate requirements of the hummingbird (Carvalheiro et al. 2013). The other 10 percent of the hummingbird diet includes arthropods that act like protein, vitamin, and fat supplements.

Plants that are visited by hummingbirds are mostly herbaceous undergrowth plants, which are founding in numerous similar species and variably distributed. A good example is those of the genus Helicon and Costus. These plants produce flowers that only last day and release most of their nectar before opening at sunrise to reduce the damage by nectar feeders.

Hummingbirds have shared a complex ecological network with plants, which is most beneficial for both organisms. These mutual interactions can be credited for the generation of the earth’s diversity. It is important to create an understanding of the patterns in hummingbird grouping and an extensive analysis of the main factors leading to patterns of interactions in this humming bird-plant network. The most central concept, however, is whether specific morphological traits have any influence on the patterns of interactions in this mutual interdependences.

The experiment applies several methods to assess the importance of morphological traits for configuring the interaction between plants and hummingbirds. The first approach is the analysis of the effect of avian morphological features and plenty on the ecological specialization of humming-birds. The second approach is considering if the plants and the hummingbird have matching traits that suggested the interaction strength in these mutual co-dependences. The third systematic approach is evaluating where matching traits were connected to feeding times by hummingbird species. MacArthur and Pianka (1996), in their foraging theory, believe that hummingbirds tend to feed more on those flowers that match well with their bill morphology because this association is connected to an increased proficiency of resource use.


Fieldwork conducted in the local woods because a tropical forest is far and cannot be easily accessed. The chosen areas must first be scouted for samples. The area should be considerably diverse in terms of species with at least 1000 different species of plants, at least 300 species of trees and more than 350 species of birds.

Sampling will include the collection of data on profusions and functional features of nectar, which is the resources and hummingbirds. Pollen loads carried by hummingbirds will also be sampled to know how the hummingbirds interact with the plants at individual levels as well as species level. To understand the kind of forage preferred by certain hummingbird species, an experiment will be conducted using artificial feeders and flowers.


Experimental and observational data will be used to evaluate the feeding preferences of hummingbird species on the artificial as well as the natural flowers while looking at morphology. The visits made by the birds to artificial feeders and those visiting the artificial flowers will show what kind of flowers they prefer. The results collected will suggest the different processes and mechanisms fundamental to the functionality of the plant-humming bird mutualistic coexistence.

The use of analyses that are based on traits alongside experimental and observational methods as crucial for a wide-ranging understanding of the evolutionary and ecological dictating of how plants and pollinator networks operate. These bases are important for and provide huge value for the understanding of the systematic bases of community muster and system structure in other types of collaboration networks.


Looking at the feeding preferences of nectar feeders or pollinators, in general, helps with the comprehension of factors that define the interactions of these species and the factors that influence the split among nectar feeders and pollinators. A better understanding of what traits hinders some species from nectar resources and whether birds have to get these resources for flowers that match their morphology. The experiment will check what other factors beyond this would influence how hummingbirds or pollinators interact with plans.


Biddick, M., & Burns, K. C. (2018). Phenotypic trait matching predicts the topology of an insular plant–bird pollination network. Integrative zoology, 13(3), 339-347.

Carvalheiro, L. G., Kunin, W. E., Keil, P., Aguirre‐Gutiérrez, J., Ellis, W. N., Fox, R., … & Van de Meutter, F. (2013). Species richness declines and biotic homogenisation have slowed down for NW‐European pollinators and plants. Ecology letters, 16(7), 870-878.

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