From Sprint to Stupor

…hummingbirds are single mothers, once the mating has completed the male moves on. The females nest is made up of moss,lichens etc and binds it all up with spiderweb, making the little nest hard to…

Hummingbird in flight Photo by Domenic Hoffmann from Pixabay

This amazing bird is found in South and North America and migrates annually, flying a total of 1 300 miles (2 100 km)at a rate of 500 miles (800 km) a day. There are in the region of 320 to 340 species but lets dig a little deeper.

The beautiful hummingbird with all its agility and energy that enable its wings to beat at such a rate, being an average of 53 beats per minute but up to around 80. To support this activity requires blood flow and energy and in both of these areas this masterpiece has unexpected ability.

Wait for this ! The heart beats at over 1 263 beats per minute, given that humans in a healthy condition is around 60 to 70 its kind of WOW! there is another side though – it slows down on a cold night to between 80 to 150 beats a minute.

And what about energy usage when flying at high speed?

Hummingbirds move from flower to flower sipping up between 3 to 7 calories a day. Not much, right?

Actually in the context of the birds size its like a human having in excess of 150 000 calories a day!

Like that isn’t enough – we as humans consume glucose and fructose by eating fruit (there is also sucrose present but not our focus at this point).The human body uses the glucose for energy and converts the fructose into fat.

Our hummingbird, according to a Toronto university study is able to break down and use both glucose and fructose as energy making this birds metabolism quite incredible. this is quite unique and no other vertebrates can achieve this.

This allow our little friend to optimize energy use from 2 perspectives – firstly is can use the energy consumed really quickly and secondly, because it doesn’t have to do the human thing of converting to fat and storage, it doesn’t have excess weight to carry around which in itself demands more energy.

Another comparison from the Toronto Scarborough article – to fuel its flying speed, if our hummingbird was the same size as a human it would need one can of soda every minute!

There is more in nectar though – it also contains traces of proteins, salts, acids and essential oils and when our humingbird drinks, its tongue moves in and out at the rate of about 13 times a second .

Hummingbird feeding. Photo by dpexcel from Pixabay.

Pulling ourselves clear of the digestive system and we find that the hummingbird is also unique in that it is the only bird that can fly backwards.

They can also fly from side to side as well as the conventional up and down that most birds do. the difference to most birds is that the hummingbird has greater shoulder flexibility allowing a 180 degree movement with the tips of their wings tracing a figure of eight pattern. Simply by changing the angle of its wings this little marvel can change its direction in mid flight.

All the advantage is in the wings as these little fellow cannot walk or hop without using their wings and even then its not very effective. These little creatures are designed for a single role, nectar specialists. Their only leg function is to perch.

They can not smell but are very visionary, attracted by flower colors and surprisingly defend their territories, regularly attacking other birds such as Jays, Crows and even Hawks!

All hummingbirds are single mothers, once the mating has completed the male moves on. The females nest is made up of moss,lichens etc and binds it all up with spiderweb, making the little nest hard to find.

A hummingbird lays 2 eggs at a time and the egg size is smaller than a jelly bean. A chicken egg weighs in the region of 40 times as much as a humming birds egg. It takes between 15 to 18 days before it hatches.

Mom feeds the babies by inserting her beak into their mouths and regurgitating a nectar/bug mixture. After about 3 weeks the little ones are ready to fledge or leave the nest.

hummingbird reverse flight
Hummingbird revere flight. Photo by Francesco Bovolin from Pixabay.

During its night time tupor, the birds heart beat slows to 30 to 150 beats a minute and its temperature drops from 40 C to 18 C which conserves a lot of energy.

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