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Does our human-based perception of events in time blind us to certain aspects of ‘reality’? Hummingbirds are notorious for the speed at which they flap their wings (up to 80 times a second), but as the video below shows, when their behaviour is slowed down (in this case, eight times slower than normal speed) other aspects become apparent – in this case, their high-pitched twittering suddenly sounds a whole lot more like a language of some kind.

A few clips at the beginning let us hear “normal” vocalizations of hummingbirds as they squabble at the feeder for last-minute feeding rights at dusk… The video was recorded in 848×480 resolution at 240fps using a GoPro Hero3+ Black edition , then slowed down to about 30fps for playback using GoPro’s Studio software. The audio was slowed down roughly the same amount, and since no audio “stretch” effect was used, the pitch and playback are simply lower and slower. The reverb effect is naturally produced by the acoustically reflective hard surfaces around the feeder, and are much longer and more more noticeable than in real time.

We already know that slowing down video of an intelligent human makes them sound like a stoner – but in the case of hummingbirds, slowing things down tends to make them seem a whole lot more intelligent.

Coincidentally yesterday I was listening to the song of an Australian magpie and was struck by how much it sounds like intelligent communication. Are birds talking all around us and we’re simply deaf to it all?