Hummingbirds: My word they’re Majestic
They’re super fast balls of fluff and adorableness, and they’re fascinating to boot.
The Hummingbird species’ range in length from small to smaller. Even the names of the birds are cute, including the Giant Hummingbird spanning 20cm, and the Bee Hummingbird, a heart-meltingly adorable 5cm long and weighing less than a 5-cent coin.
Hummingbirds are amazing fliers, with the ability to hover in place and dart off at a moment’s notice. This requires a lot of energy and exertion, and the hummingbirds have evolved to have tiny legs and feet to channel all their energy into flight.
Their tiny legs mean they aren’t able to walk or hop as other birds are, and can only use their legs to perch and shuffle from side to side, which is adorable.
This physical exertion also means their heart has to beat incredibly fast to keep up with the blood flow required for their wing muscles. As a result, they have relatively big hearts for their small bodies, and their hearts can beat up to 1200 times per minute, or 20 times per second!
They also have a large brain to body-weight ratio, allowing them to remember the positions of every flower around their habitat and how long those flowers take to refill with nectar.
They also remember which human fills up their feeders, so they’re an easy animal to get up close and personal to if you offer them enough sugar!
Hummingbirds can’t get fat:
Hummingbirds require the energy from the nectar straight away to fire up their wings and allow them to fly to their full potential.
Humans and most other animals absorb the sugar and other nutrients from our food and transform it into fat, a process that takes energy and time to complete. The fat storage allows us to tap into this energy at any time, and as such we can eat larger portions of food, less often.
We can go about our day, eating intermittently when we feel the need. Not so for the hummingbirds. The sugar they ingest goes straight from their bloodstream into their muscles for immediate use.
This both means that the hummingbird is very efficient, in that they don’t need to use energy to create and store fat, but also that they need to constantly feed, every 10-15 minutes while they are awake, or they will quickly run out of energy.
Hummingbirds have insane movement and hovering ability, which requires some serious muscle. Their pectoral muscles, which connect to the wings, account for roughly 30% of their total body weight, 6 times that of humans’.
Furthermore, most bird wings flap up and down, generating all of their lifting power on the down stroke. Hummingbirds, however, behave a little more like insects when it comes to flight.
They can twist their bones in their shoulders and wrists so that they can stroke forwards and backwards, allowing them to also generate lift on their ‘up stroke’, amounting to a quarter of the total lift they generate.
This maneuverability, however, comes at a cost. Hummingbirds can’t glide as normal birds do. Instead they need to constantly flap their wings all the time, up to 200 times per second to keep flying, which is a scary prospect.
While it doesn’t occur often, when there is a shortage in sources of nectar, these survival skills can turn deadly. In these cases, the hummingbirds have to literally fight to survive, engaging in aerial combat with other hummingbirds to protect their turf and food sources.
I imagine this hummingbird dogfighting would be both terrifying and beautiful.
Terrifying, beautiful, and cute.