Stanford University researchers want to build better flying robots. In order to eventually do this, they are filming birds in flight (including hummingbirds) using an ultra-high-speed video camera. Some of the clips they've acquired are nothing short of amazing.

As we've discussed before, scientists and engineers can learn to build faster, more agile robots by studying the locomotion of animals. In the past, for example, researchers found that the abdomen of the hawkmoth plays a pivotal role in the insect's flight control while hovering — a discovery they then implemented into a robotic quadrotor.

To learn more about the intricacies of bird flight, Stanford researchers, led by mechanical engineer David Lentink, have been filming various birds flying using a high-speed Phantom camera, which can shoot between 3,300 and 650,000 frames per second, depending on resolution. Stanford News explains:

Every time Lentink's students take the camera into the field, they have the potential to make a groundbreaking discovery. Thousands of birds have never been filmed with a high-speed camera, their secret flight mechanics never exposed.

Students Andreas Peña Doll and Rivers Ingersoll filmed hummingbirds performing a never-before-seen "shaking" behavior: As the bird dived off a branch, it wiggled and twisted its body along its spine, the same way a wet dog would try to dry off. At 55 times per second, hummingbirds have the fastest body shake among vertebrates on the planet – almost twice as fast as a mouse.

You read more about what they are trying to do over at Stanford News.

But on this post-holiday Friday (for our U.S. audience, anyway), you're probably more interested in seeing more slo-mo videos of animals.