The hummingbird is one of nature’s most fascinating creations. Known as a tiny, efficient bird with a flying ability that, in many ways, bests even the most advanced aircraft technology in today’s aviation world, hummingbirds have many interesting features that make them so special. Their incredible speed and agility in the air make hummingbirds one of the most fascinating birds to watch for anyone interested in aerodynamics.
So let’s explore five high-flying facts about the most interesting aviators in the avian world: the hummingbird.
Hummingbirds Flap Their Wings Insanely Fast
If you think an airplane’s propeller turns fast, wait until you learn how fast a hummingbird’s wings flap. The average for hummingbirds in North America is between 50 and 55 beats per second. Even on the larger side of the hummingbird family, Giant Hummingbirds beat their wings 10 to 15 times per second. The fastest of the species is the Amethyst Wood-star Hummingbird, which flaps their wings up to 80 beats per second — that’s about 4,800 flaps per minute. In comparison, on most general aviation single-engine aircraft, the prop spins at or below 2,700 RPMs.
Hummingbird Wings Have Evolved to Rotate, Like a Helicopter
When it comes to flying, a hummingbird may be more similar to a rotary craft like a helicopter, rather than an airplane, thanks to its ability to rotate their wings. Unlike other birds, like a crow or falcon which flap their wings up and down, for example, hummingbirds have evolved to rotate their wings similar to how a common insect flies. This gives them the ability to hover in place and rotate on every axis so they can easily feed on the flower nectar that sustains them. If you’ve ever watched a hummingbird at a feeder or a flower, you’ve surely noticed this skill, and how their skillfully and gracefully body moves about, all while in total control.
Hummingbirds Perform Impressive Aerial Moves
Because hummingbirds must eat every few minutes to fuel their system, they’re considered one of the most territorial birds on the planet. They can scare off larger predator birds like eagles and hawks by performing impressive aerial maneuvers that either scare or annoy the threatening bird into flying away. They also use these deft maneuvers to impress the opposite sex, appearing to dance in the air as a form of courtship ritual and performing what’s known as a “courtship dive”. According to World of Hummingbirds, a courtship dive is the act of a male hummingbird flying up to 60 feet in the air, and diving straight for the intended female. Coming within inches of the female hummingbird, still at full speed, the male suddenly pulls up and repeats the process until the female either accepts the advance or flies away.
Hummingbirds Have the Flying Ability of a Fighter Pilot
No other bird can match the flying ability of a hummingbird; an ability that would make even the most seasoned fighter pilot jealous. They’re able to fly in reverse, hover, even fly upside down. They can perform these maneuvers so fast, that it’s sometimes imperceptible to the naked human eye. These tiny birds, that weigh less than an ounce, have such power and precision, that they can reach flying speeds of up to 40 MPH, and all the way up to 60 MPH while diving.
Hummingbirds Can Fly Long Distances
Despite their small stature (they are the smallest birds in the world), hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles each year, traveling northwards for the breeding season in the spring, and heading south during the colder months. According to Hummingbird Central, many hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America or Mexico and migrate north to their breeding grounds in the southern U.S. and western states as early as February, and to areas further north later in the spring. In other words, a coast-to-coast flight is no problem for this tiny flyer.
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