Which birds fly backwards?
Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards. They do it to protect themselves from predators or when they want to show off and surprise other birds.
They move their wings at different speeds, so they go forward when one is up, and the other one is down. When they move them both together in a figure eight-like pattern, that’s when they can fly backwards! And guess what? They can even fly forwards!
Other birds can not do this because they do not have muscles in their wings to move them differently from each other.
Also, hummingbirds flap their wings about 50 times per second!
Here is a compilation of interesting facts about hummingbirds.
They often fly around while they feed on flowers, probing each flower quickly with their bill to see if nectar is available – unlike bees which will stick around longer and examine many different flowers before deciding where the best source of pollen or nectar is.
Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds. But, not just by size, but also by heart – they have a high metabolism rate, and their hearts beat 1200 times per minute!
They are territorial and may chase away larger birds or mammals if they find another bird in their territory!
Hummingbirds beat their wings at a rate of 50 beats per second – so fast that it is nearly impossible to see with our eyes!
They live in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. They prefer warmer climates because they are tropical birds. Females have larger territories than males because they have more work: making nests, incubating eggs, rearing young. Males tend to compete for females’ attention by showing off by flying backwards or diving down from above to where a female is perched and then swooping back up where he started from.
When they dive down and land on flowers to take nectar, hummingbirds will often stick out their long tongues.
The red-tailed hawk is one of its predators; they are the largest bird of prey in North America. The hummingbird’s main defense against the red-tailed hawk is diving backwards to avoid it!
Hummingbirds also use their color as a defense: they can flash colors that resemble the flower they’re sitting on, so predators attack the wrong target and leave them alone.
A hummingbird can eat up to half of its body weight in one hour!
Even though there are over 330 species, they all have the same diet – nectar from flowers makes up 90% or more. They also drink small amounts of water droplets from damp soil and tree holes.
Their tongues have tiny barbs on them, which work like fishing lines; this allows them to pull out deep-throated flowers to reach the nectar inside.
Hummingbirds sleep while hanging upside down from a perch.
They can also enter something called torpor, a state of hibernation that occurs when the weather gets too cold. Torpor isn’t true hibernation because they don’t spend the winter in this state; hummingbirds can maintain their body temperature at about 40 degrees Celsius by regulating how much blood goes to their legs and wings (the core of the body). When more heat is required in the middle torso or head, warm blood flows there instead.
Hummingbirds have strong neck muscles! This allows them to turn their heads up to 270 degrees – nearly as far as humans can turn theirs! It also gives them excellent visibility – they can see 360 degrees around them.
Hummingbirds are territorial birds. If they find another bird hanging out in their territory, they will chase it away! They’re pretty aggressive! This may have something to do with the fact that males and females take different roles in parenting – females incubate eggs and brood nestlings while males defend feeding territories and are involved in courtship displays.
Hummingbirds can eat as many as 500 meals a day! They need a lot of food because they need to convert all of their food into energy due to their high metabolism rate.
Hummingbirds flap their wings so quickly that they can exceed 10-80 beats per second – which is an astounding rate. On average, their wings beat about 50 times per second to sustain flight.
Hummingbirds weigh between 2 and 30g – that’s 0.078-1.06oz!
Their feathers are soft and straight, allowing them to fly at high speeds without being slowed down due to air resistance.
Hummingbirds have small brains: the size of a large pea! They make up for this by having a high sensory perception and using their eyesight and sense of smell when finding food sources.
The colors on hummingbirds are unique because they contain an almost fluorescent pigment (it glistens in sunlight). The pigment is red but turns greenish-blue or violet when backlit; this is known as structural color. The exact mechanism that causes this color shift isn’t completely understood, but it involves how the light reflects off their feathers. The more layers of iridescent feather scales a hummingbird species has, the greater its amount of colors.
Hummingbirds are the only birds that fly backwards. They drink only nectar from flowers, which makes up 90% or more of their diet. In one hour they can eat half of their body weight! They need this much food because they need energy for a high metabolism rate – hummingbirds can sleep while hanging upside down and enter torpor when there is too much cold weather.
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