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Douglas Warrick, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in biophysics at the zoology department of Oregon State Universitymarker, working in bird flight, especially hummingbirds and pigeons.

Early life and education

Douglas Warrick was brought up in northern Nebraskamarker. He learnt to fly at an early age qualifying for a pilot's license at the young age of 17. He attended the University of Nebraska, taking a first degree in life sciences, this was followed with a masters in biology from the University of Oregonmarker and a PhD in biology from the University of Montanamarker in 1997.


Following his doctorate, he worked in the private sector for ecological consultants between 1987 until 1992. He worked as radio tracking studies field crew on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and subsequently worked as assistant professor in biology at Minot State Universitymarker in North Dakotamarker. While at Minot State University, he developed a research interest in functional morphology, (in particular avian flight structures), behavioral ecology (in particular, predator/prey relationships and foraging strategies), locomotor performance (maneuvering performance and prey capture/evasion performance) and biomechanics.

Hovering hummingbirds

A hovering Rufous Hummingbird
In 2005, Warrick led the research study that made his name: a study into the hummingbird's ability to hover in flight. Working with trained rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) that hovered over a feeding syringe filled with sugar solution, Warrick and his research team employed digital particle imaging velocimetry to capture the bird’s wing movements on film, which enabled the discovery that the hummingbird’s hovering is achieved due primarily to its wing’s downstroke (which accounts for 75% of its lift) rather than its upstroke (which makes up the additional 25% of the lift). This was counter to the conventional wisdom which was that the lift was provided 50:50 by the up and down strokes as with Hawk Moths. Warrick's research was published in Nature, a leading scientific journal, and his research conclusions were widely reported in the international media - with articles in Scientific American and on the BBC, the Associated Press news wire and the US National Science Foundation.

Inspiration for art

Warrick et al's Nature (2005) article inspired Jennifer MacMillan and Bradley Eros to create their our own "experiment" - investigating the "cross-pollination of scientific visualization and poetic document". Their art work added "star studies, satellite recordings, subaquatic and botanical investigations, liquid crystals, visual music performance generated from the scientific instrument, high speed motion studies, a discussion of subatomic physics, and readings of the 10 most beautiful experiments of science."

Notable publications

  • Douglas R. Warrick, Bret W. Tobalske, Donald R. Powers (2009) Lift production in the hovering hummingbird, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 276, No. 1674. (7 November ), pp. 3747-3752.
  • Bret W. Tobalske, Jason W. D. Hearn and Douglas R. Warrick (2009) Aerodynamics of intermittent bounds in flying birds, Journal Experiments in Fluids Issue Volume 46, Number 5 / May, 2009
  • Douglas R. Warrick, Bret W. Tobalske & Donald R. Powers (2005) Aerodynamics of the hovering hummingbird, Nature 435, 1094-1097 23 June
  • K. P. Dial, A. A. Biewener, B. W. Tobalske & D. R. Warrick (1997) Mechanical power output of bird flight, Nature 390, 67-70 6 November


  1. Doug Warrick "Creating a Bird and the Fifth Day Blues: Copying, Modeling, and Starting from Scratch" Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771 ENGINEERING COLLOQUIUM Monday, October 29, 2001 / 3:30 PM, Building 8 Auditorium
  2. Exxon Vufdez Oil Spill State Federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment Final Report Total Direct Mortality of Seabirds from the Exxon Vufdez Oil Spill Bird Study Number Final Report
  3. Doug Warrick "Creating a Bird and the Fifth Day Blues: Copying, Modeling, and Starting from Scratch" Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771 ENGINEERING COLLOQUIUM Monday, October 29, 2001 / 3:30 PM, Building 8 Auditorium
  4. National Science Foundation Press Release 05-103 Ultra-Fast Camera Captures How Hummingbirds Hover Scientists reveal aerodynamics of the tiny bird’s flight - Principal Investigators: Bret Tobalske, University of Portland and Douglas Warrick, Oregon State University
  5. Invisible Cinema: Living experimental film and video, The Aerodynamics of the Hovering Hummingbird: Science, Cinema, and Ways of Seeing

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