Hummingbirds have been baffling scientists for years. Matt Ransford commented, “The hummingbird is an animal that by all rights shouldn’t be able to fly” (Popular Science). But not only can this bird fly, it is the only bird able to fly forwards, backward, up, down, sideways, upside down, and even hover. UAV once tried to make a robotic hummingbird. Head researcher Matt Keennon stated, “It was never our intention to copy what nature has done; it’s just too daunting” (Popular Science). Daunting is right. Let’s take a closer look at just what make the hummingbird one-of-a-kind.
As you probably know, the hummingbird is the smallest bird in nature. The smallest species of hummingbird weights about 2 grams. As a point of comparison, the penny in your pocket weights 2.5 grams. The hummingbird’s heart can beat up to 1,260 times per minute and down to 250 when at rest. A hummingbird’s body temperature often reaches temperatures of about 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
The wings on a hummingbird are quite unique. All feathers have a quill. The quill is essentially the center part of a feather that holds it together and gives it strength. The hummingbird’s quill is, for its weight, considered stronger than any other man-made structure (Sharp). It needs this strength in its wings because of how vigorously it moves them. Hummingbirds’ wings will beat about 70 times per second and up to 200 times per second when diving at 60 mph. The way the hummingbird moves its wings is different as well. Most birds flap their wings but hummingbirds move them in a type of circular, figure-8 type motion. Subtle changes in this motion allow it to move in all directions.
Feeding and Metabolism:
Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals. Hummingbirds will fly around and visit around 1,000 flowers for nectar per day as well as feeding on tiny insects. They need to eat about 7 times every single hour to keep up with the energy demand. If our metabolisms were as high as a hummingbird, we would have to eat 155,000 calories per day (How-Come.net). With such a needy metabolism, how are hummingbirds able to live through the night? Hummingbirds can’t feed at night because they do not have the rods in their eyes that are necessary for night vision (Sharp). So, when it begins getting dark the hummingbird will fly to a safe location and enter into a state of hibernation called “torpor.” It will do this every night. During torpor, the hummingbird can lower its heart rate to 50 beats per minute and its body temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (Sciencemag.org)! What a massive change from 1,260 beats per minute and 107 degrees Fahrenheit. This lowers the caloric intake and allows it to survive the night.
For everything to function at such a high rate, it needs an advanced respiratory system. Most people and animals inhale and then exhale. Most birds do not. Instead, they are able to receive an almost continuous supply of oxygen. Hummingbirds will inhale air into an air sac. When it goes to exhale from one of two lungs, the oxygen in the air sac will move into one lung, providing fresh oxygen. Once it is done exhaling, it will inhale more fresh air into the air sac as the body is using the previous breath. This airflow continues in this circular process, and allows the bird to receive fresh air almost constantly. This process is incredibly complicated (Click Here For More Info On This). Breathing this way does more than just provide oxygen though. The air sacs that fill up with air make the bird lighter for flying. In addition, this continuous air supply cools the hummingbird off by bringing in cool air and venting out body heat. In other words, the hummingbird’s respiratory system provides oxygen, helps with flight, and is an air conditioner! And to top it all off, hummingbirds will breathe up to 250 times per minute.
Could all of these features have evolved? Douglas Sharp said it best, “It is unreasonable to suggest that the hummingbird “developed” all of these features as a product of evolution gradually over millions of years. Time and chance cannot produce such design and order. Only God can!”
Jeremiah 10:12 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.” It is astonishing what it takes for the hummingbird to live, breath, and fly. In the end, the hummingbird is just one more awesome example of the powerful God who made this earth and everything on it!