Hummingbirds are a creature you learn about as a kid, wonder in awe over, and then forget about in adulthood because Netflix and popcorn exist. But these epic, hyperactive little birds are a bloody marvel. And we’re here to bloody acknowledge that.
Take the male bee hummingbirds above. These diminutive ones are pretty spectacular, but are only around 5cm.
Overall there about 340 species of hummingbird we know about. There might be more on Mars, but until NASA gets there we’ll have to hold back on predictions.
But the species is an old one, with several fossils found in 2004 dating back to over 30 million years ago. In 2013, archeologists did find one from over 50 million years ago.
Anyway, putting the above video in perspective, here’s a look at the cute little gits in action (positively manic compared to the likes of the sedate frogmouth).
But asides from the incredible plumage, and ability to fly (we kind of forget how incredible that ability is), the hummingbird has that one standout ability: helicopter mode.
With its wings a blur of insanity, the bird can hover around and retrieve food (usually nectar) from plants.
Although that’s an astonishing thing to behold, the hummingbird is up against the harsh reality of nature.
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) April 23, 2019
With that in mind, how exactly does the hummingbird do what it does? The evolutionary trick that we humans have to recreate with an obnoxious helicopter?
Humming Gave Me Wings
You’d have to be very dumb to not understand where the bird gets its iconic name from.
Their wings blast along at such a rate they can hover. Those rates vary from 12 beats a second to over 80 amongst thee small species.
Some of them also have the capacity to dive at almost 50 mph.
The aerodynamic properties the bird posses has made it ideal for extensive studying.
The wings work rapidly to create a wake of vortiices through upstrokes and downstrokes. It’s a kind of figure of eight motion, really, but it’s distinct from hovering behaviour that some insects have.
And if it’s raining whilst it’s flying, the bird will shake its head to shift drops from its eyes.
Truly, it’s a bird to be reckoned with. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…