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5 Enjoyable Facts Regarding Hummingbirds Flying in Reverse

Image Source: Ondrej Prosicky / Shutterstock

You might be familiar with some basic information about Hummingbirds, like their petite size and quick wing flaps producing a humming noise. Hummingbirds have the ability to flap their wings anywhere from eight to 200 times per second! These colorful creatures swiftly dart around, and their tongues move in and out of a flower up to twenty times per second, resembling a laboratory pipette drawing up liquid. However, there is more to these fascinating little birds—below are five entertaining facts about how hummingbirds are capable of flying backwards!

Are they the sole birds that fly in reverse?

While herons, warblers, and egrets are some examples of birds that can briefly fly in reverse, typically as a defense mechanism when under attack by predators, Hummingbirds can effortlessly fly in reverse and maintain it for extended periods. This skill enables them to navigate easily from one flower to another, efficiently collecting nectar compared to birds that can only fly forward. Moreover, hummingbirds utilize this capability to escape predators like hawks, frogs, spiders, swiftly flying in reverse to avoid danger.

Hummingbirds possess wings perfectly suited for this task!

Hummingbirds have uniquely structured wings that connect to the sternum through a distinct ball-and-socket joint. This unusual anatomy provides the necessary wing flexibility for their reverse flight maneuver. This ball and socket joint, known as a rotator cuff, is akin to the human shoulder. The evolution of this feature aids hummingbirds in consuming nectar from flowers more efficiently and swiftly. Given their high metabolic rate, this capability assists them in gathering ample food. Flying backwards enables them to retract their beak from the flower efficiently, helping them preserve their energy levels.

Engaging in Figure 8 flight!

While in flight, hummingbirds move their wings in a back and forth motion, crafting a Figure 8 pattern in the air. This technique differs from that of other birds, which mainly use wing flaps to take off. Hummingbirds utilize their tail feathers to generate lift and propulsion in conjunction with their Figure 8 motion, enabling them to move in all directions, including reverse flight!

Reverse flying and respiration

Recent research has explored the respiratory effects of hummingbirds during reverse flight when compared to forward flight. Scientists noted that the birds adopt a more upright stance when flying in reverse. Further examinations unveiled no metabolic disparity between forward and backward flight during feeding. Evidently, both flight modes consume equivalent energy—quite efficient!

Flying backwards necessitates a strong heart!

Navigating through the air in forward and reverse requires a robust engine, and the hummingbird is well-prepared for the task. On average, a hummingbird’s heart rate surpasses 1,200 beats per minute! This escalated heart rate ensures sufficient oxygen supply to match their reverse flight dynamics. While the exact speed at which hummingbirds can fly backward remains uncertain, estimates indicate it to be between 5 to 10 miles per hour—quite a contrast from their forward top speed of around 30–35 miles per hour!

Hummingbirds rank high for their aerial acrobatics prowess. Their proficiency in flying in reverse is a testament to their adaptation and truly a sight to behold. Despite their small stature, these nimble avian wonders are undoubtedly formidable!

Image Source: Ondrej Prosicky / Shutterstock

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