Birds That Can Hover; Nature’s Best Acrobats

Birds That Can Hover

Birds are some of the most spectacular animal species on the planet. They come in a wide range of classes, sizes, and colors, making them an enigma to humans. 

Despite all this, what is fascinating about birds is their flight capabilities. When it comes to flying, nothing shows more prowess than hovering. 

Some birds can stay in the air without moving. Hovering requires a lot of skill and muscle power, so not many birds can do it. Here are the known birds that are capable of this feat;

Birds That Can Hover

Hovering is not simple; there are two types of hovering. Some birds hover by generating lift using their wings, while others use the wind to hover for a short while. Here is a list of all birds that can hover and their mechanism of hovering.

1. Hummingbird

The hummingbird is the only bird that has a true extended hover. A true hover means that it can stay at a fixed point in the air for a long time using its wings to generate lift. 

They can achieve this because of their small size and low body weight. The wing muscles of the hummingbird are adapted for circular motion, which makes them capable of a broader range of motion. 

They can even fly backward and upside down. All these make hovering, vertical and lateral movements easy for hummingbirds.

2. Ospreys 

Ospreys are one of the few large birds that can hover by generating their lift. They fly over water bodies hunting for fish, and when they spot one, they hover for a few seconds to aim for it before diving for the kill.

Hovering is an integral part of this predator’s hunting strategy. It flaps its wings to stop since it is a strong flier and positions itself in a feet-first position to grab the fish. The bird often plunges into the water and takes the fish out before flying away.

3. Kestrels

You must have spotted a kestrel hanging in the air while looking for small prey like rats. They are wind-hoverers, which means that they use the air current to stay in the air. 

To hover, kestrels fly at the same speed and in the opposite direction as the wind. The oncoming air current rushes over its wings and provides the lift it needs to stay in the air.

To maintain the lift, a kestrel fans its tail and extends the tips of its wings. When the wind drops, it flaps its wings a little to keep up with the air motion.

4. Kites

Kites also hover when hunting. They fly at high speeds and, at times, need to slow down to be more accurate in hunting, hence hovering. These birds glide most of the time then hover over likely prey.

To do this, kites drop then spread their tail to hold more air as it rapidly flutters its wings to stay in the air. They do this between 15 to 20 feet off the ground right before pouncing onto their victims by the claws.

5. Hawks and Terns 

Most birds of prey use wind hovering while hunting. They can control their forward motion by balancing their speed with that of the wind and going against the air current. 

They can do this to a point where they make no motion relative to the ground, thus hovering. Hovering gives birds of prey more time to launch precision attacks on the prey they are hunting, and a dive often follows it.

Gaps between the bird’s feathers allow it to control the turbulence, and fanning the tail provides additional lift.

6. Kingfishers

It hovers to spot a fish, then dives vertically, beak first to snatch them up. Kingfishers also hover for a few seconds before they finally dive to catch their prey. They need a gust of wind to keep them in the air, just like Kestrels.

The Anatomy Of Flight

Birds are perhaps the most successful group of animals on this planet. This position can largely be attributed to their ability to fly and move quickly in the air. But what enables these birds to soar through the air and hover?

Birds have been evolving over millions of years, and their bodies have adapted to master the art of flying. Every aspect of the bird’s body has been perfected and streamlined for flying with minimal effort.

The bones have become hollow to reduce the bird’s mass for easier flight. Many bird bones are also naturally fused. 

Bones like the wing are fingers and wrist bones that are fused. Fusing reduces mass and streamlines the outline of a bird for easier flying.

The bird’s clavicle has also fused to become one continuous bone that is vital in flying. This bone helps pump air into the lungs as the bird flaps its wings. 

The bones in the legs have become tougher since there is a lot of stress on the legs when a bid takes off or lands.

They also need the legs for quick takeoff in case they need to escape danger. Most of the birds’ weight is centralized below their wings to make them more stable in flight. 

They have two primary flight muscles that makeup about 30% of the bird’s mass. These muscles are placed below the wings, where they work in pulling the wings up and down. 

The feathers attached to the wings are equally important when it comes to flying. The feathers are asymmetrical, which makes each feather form an airfoil shape.

Birds have inelastic lungs; hence the muscles pump air into the lungs. This shape makes for a better air pressure imbalance under the bird to stay in the air. The whole wing takes this shape and makes for a streamlined yet efficient body shape. 

The bird has to inhale for air to go through the entire respiratory system. This allows for a continuous flow of air in the muscles for flight. The lungs work in harmony with the bones, which assist in respiration.

The bird’s brain is another impressive part that helps the bird fly. It has two hemispheres like humans, but each hemisphere of a bird’s brain can function independently and faster. Their eyes are oval-shaped, which allows for better vision and more receptors in the small space.

In addition to this, they have an additional transparent eyelid that acts as a windscreen wiper as they fly. 

They close it to get the dirt out of their eyes as they fly. They have a third eyelid that completely blocks off the light when they need to sleep.

Top 3 Fastest Birds In The World

When it comes to birds, we cannot finish a conversation without mentioning flight speed. Birds have powerful wings to help them fly and hover in the air, so it is vital to know some of the world’s fastest birds.

1. Peregrine falcon

This falcon is the fastest animal on the planet, and it can be found on every continent except Antarctica since it cannot handle extreme cold. It is about the size of a crow and hunts birds almost exclusively with a few reptile feedings.

Historically, humans have used these birds in hunting games for at least 3000 years showing just how incredible they are. A peregrine falcon can dive at a speed of 242mph by pulling its wings in to be more streamlined.

2. Golden Eagle

The golden eagle is one of the best fliers and most widespread eagles on the planet. Falconers use them in hunting, but they can take on much larger prey and even kill wolves. 

A golden eagle can achieve a flight speed of 200 mph, making it the second-fastest animal on earth. 

This speed is a significant advantage when hunting since it ensures no prey can escape from this apex predator.

3. Gyrfalcon 

This is the largest in the falcon family, and it lives mainly in the arctic and bordering areas of Europe, Greenland, Asia, and North America. 

It is a predator that feeds on birds and mammals such as hares. Falconers often use them for hunting. They can dive at speeds of up to 130 mph when hunting, making them a force to be reckoned with.

Conclusion

Several birds can hover. Most of the birds are predators, and they hover to scout for prey before snatching them. 

These birds use air currents to keep themselves in the air, and they can only maintain it for a few seconds.

Birds have adapted over the years and are now ideally suited to fly. The hummingbird is the master of hovering. 

With its circular wing muscles, this bird has a 3600 range of motion, and it can hover for a much longer time since it generates its lift.

These adaptations have made them capable of achieving speeds of up to 242 mph for the peregrine falcon. 

These animals will continue to fascinate us with their adaptations, and we stand to learn a lot from them.