Hummingbirds are the smallest and one of the fascinating bird species on the planet. They are capable of incredible feats of flight that other birds cannot even get close to achieving.
You can always see these birds flying around without even stopping. This could make you wonder if they actually can’t stop for metabolic reasons or otherwise.
Many people think that hummingbirds die when they stop flying. Let us look deeper into this topic and see if there is any truth to it;
Do Hummingbirds Die When They Stop Flying?
No, a hummingbird will not die if it stops flying. This is a myth that has been spread over time due to the hummingbirds’ impressive flight capabilities. They often stop and perch at water points in the trees, and they don’t die.
They also need to stop so they can sleep, lay eggs and incubate the eggs. You can prove this by taking a closer look at any hummingbirds there are near your house.
How Do Hummingbirds Fly?
Hummingbirds are genuinely astounding creatures to watch. You can see them flying around so fast and beating their wings at a frequency that is high enough to be audible to humans.
They flap so fast; they are even capable of hovering. Understanding nature is a great way for innovators to get ideas on new designs that will improve human life.
Years of research have been put into understanding how this bird is capable of such flight maneuvers, and now we have an answer.
Hummingbirds have an upstroke and a downstroke while they are beating their wings. During the downstroke, small vortexes of air form around the bird’s wings.
These vortexes combine into one giant vortex underneath the wings. This vortex creates an area of low pressure under the hummingbird’s wing, so the air floods to equalize the pressure around the bird, thus generating lift.
This unique flight technique allows hummingbirds to fly at a fixed point without moving. A hummingbird can flap its wings around 200 times per second to maintain its hover.
This is an astonishing feat that insects like house flies and dragonflies can only achieve. A hummingbird can also, over sharply towards the sides or up and down.
They do this by generating positive lift on their wings’ downward stroke and generating negative lift on the upward stroke.
Their speed allows them to generate upward and downward forces simultaneously, something that other birds cannot do.
Another aspect that helps hummingbirds fly is their small size. Hummingbirds are small and weigh under three ounces making them light and easy to lift off.
Their legs are tiny to the point that some people believe hummingbirds don’t have legs. Having a streamlined body helps the bird move fast without too much air resistance on it.
They can fly backward and feed in mid-flight, which makes them stand out. All these, coupled with a fast metabolism, allows the bird to stay in the sky feeding all day long.
When sleeping, hummingbirds go into a hibernation-like state which allows them to slow their metabolism down to a 1/15 of the usual. This state allows the birds to save up to 60% of their energy and get some rest.
These are factors that can be seen when using a high-quality 1000 frames per second camera. We can apply the knowledge drawn from studying such birds in engineering to help with designing more efficient flying machines for the future.
Lessons Engineers Took From Hummingbirds
Humans have learned a lot from nature, and it has enabled us to create machines with impressive capabilities.
The same applies to Hummingbirds; engineers are looking into the adaptations and techniques used by this bird to get ideas for new aircraft.
Biomimicry is a term used to refer to technologies that humans develop to replicate animals. Spider webs and other animal structures have been scientifically mimicked in simple and complex ways, and the same is happening with hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds move at impressive speeds, with their wings flapping over 200 times per second. They have also mastered hovering.
This allows them to maintain their aerial position with minimum effort. The closest humans have come to mimicking the hummingbird is the Prox Dynamics black hornet autonomous micro helicopter.
This is one of the most sophisticated drones available, and it has been closely targeted at measuring up to the hummingbirds’ speed.
They are currently used in Afghanistan by the English army to scout hostile territories. How efficient is this helicopter as compared to a hummingbird?
We can look at the aerodynamics of the bird’s feathers and those of the helicopter blades to figure this out.
When it comes to the blade’s efficiency, the helicopter can match that of the bird’s wings, which is rather impressive.
The news gets worse for humans when we look at species with top-flight wings that are 27% more efficient in flight than the micro-helicopter.
The engineers of the world remain outsmarted by evolution. This is still a significant improvement in aerodynamics, and with time humans will master the specifics and get better. They will be able to look into the bird’s navigation, diving, and many more secrets.
More Facts About The Hummingbird
There are many myths relating to hummingbirds and their lives that it might be hard for you to know which are true and which are not.
If you are developing some interest in these birds, here are some facts you might find interesting;
- An average hummingbird weighs 5 grams which is the same as a sheet of paper. This size makes them the smallest bird species on the planet.
The bee hummingbird is the smallest bird globally, and the female is larger than the male. Hummingbirds are named because of the sound they make while flying.
The constant and high-frequency flutter of their wings produces a humming sound that led to their name.
- They are the smallest migratory bird species. To migrate, they can fly nonstop for over 500 miles.
They fly alone and are the only birds that can migrate without company. They regularly visit over 1000 flowers each day.
They feed on nectar for its carbohydrate and sugar, which gives the birds energy. They take in 5 to 8 doses of nectar per hour to keep up with their metabolism.
- Hummingbirds have a good memory and can remember which flower they have visited. This memory helps them save energy since they don’t go back to already used flowers.
They can also remember which flowers have the most nectar and stay close to them. Hummingbirds lay eggs the size of jelly beans.
Most females lay two eggs that they incubate for 15 to 18 days before hatching. Considering the size of a full-grown hummingbird, you can understand the size of the eggs.
- Hummingbird nests are around the size of a golf ball. Most nests measure 1.5 inches in diameter, and the parents weave the nest using leaves, twigs, and plant fibers.
They generally make nests for every season. Hummingbirds don’t walk. These birds are acrobats in the sky but not so much on land.
They can’t walk, and they only use their legs for lateral movements and perching while sleeping or resting.
- They have a decent lifespan depending on the species. They can live between 2-5 years out in the wild, where they can provide for themselves.
Hummingbirds cannot perceive smell. They make up for this by having a keen color vision due to the many cones in their retina. The sense is heightened for red and yellow but less prominent for colors like blue.
- Hummingbirds don’t mate for life. Instead, they look for mates while in heat, and they might never meet again after copulation.
The mother takes care of the chicks till they can fend for themselves. The hummingbird’s heart can beat at a rate of 1200 beats per minute when the bird is in flight and 250 beats per minute at rest.
They can do this because of their rotating wing muscles that give a more comprehensive range of motion. They are the only birds that can fly backward or upside down.
- There are more than 300 hummingbird species, with a majority living in South America. Only eight hummingbird species are found in North America. They can migrate during the daytime or at night in places with natural light.
It is a misunderstanding that has made many people wonder how a bird can fly for its whole lifespan.
Hummingbirds can stop flying to rest or nest, and they won’t die. They can sleep and enter a state similar to hibernation to slow down their metabolism and energy consumption.
Scientists have done a lot of research into hummingbird flight to create better aircraft. A deeper understanding of these birds and others will help engineers make designs that will be faster, more efficient, and safer, thus improving human life as we know it.
There are a lot of interesting facts about hummingbirds, and you can always learn more. They are not scared of humans, so you can attract them and watch them fly around your home. Trapping the bird is illegal and can lead to a hefty fine.