Mom, when I discovered this information about the unique nature of hummingbird flight I was immediately reminded of our fascination with their aerial displays. Each spring and fall, we would spend a great deal of time sitting on the back porch watching these tiny birds in utter amazement. We would watch as the hummingbirds would fight over feeder access or a certain hanging basket plants or just put on their aerial displays. What an amazing show Mother Nature would provide us with!
These birds would, at times, even provide us with a really good laugh. Mom, do you remember the times the hummingbirds would hit the kitchen window because they thought the flowers on the kitchen wallpaper were real and would make a great source of nectar? I sure do.
For those of you who don’t know anything about this, I must explain the situation here. When we moved into my parents’ home, in 1979, the wallpaper in the kitchen had these huge brightly colored flowers (red, orange, yellow, blue and more) and the hummingbirds seemed to think they would serve as a great source of nectar. The home was only six months old when we moved into it. The family that built it liked very bright and strange color choices. My family hated the wallpaper! At the time, money was an issue, so it wasn’t replaced for several years to come. In an effort to tame down the wallpaper and maybe even prevent the hummingbirds from continually flying into the window, my mom went to the trouble of painting over many of the flowers. This did help tame down the overly vivid nature of the wallpaper, but it still did little to keep the hummingbirds from believing that those flowers would serve as an excellent source of nectar and thus flying into the window. In case you are wondering, none of the hummingbirds were ever seriously hurt by doing this, just momentarily dazed. This kept happening over the years until the wallpaper was finally changed. I’m not sure who was happier about this, the hummingbirds or the family. Personally, my bet is on the hummingbirds.
Well, now that you know the story, let me get back to the topic of today’s post, the unique nature of hummingbird flight. If you are like my mom and me, whenever you think about the hummingbird you think of it is a bird that is in almost constantly in perpetual motion. Guess what? This simply isn’t true. Here’s why.
A study of one territorial Lucifer hummingbird male showed how the bird spent an hour of time. The vast majority of his time, 41 minutes, was spent perched. The bird only spent 4 minutes feeding. Each feeding was very brief, lasting only 12 seconds in length. Hummingbirds will usually visit between 1000-2000 flowers per day. The final 15 minutes of the hour was spent by the male chasing away intruders.
What is unusual about a hummingbird’s flying? The hummingbird is the only bird with the ability to fly forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways, or sit in sheer space. This is because the hummingbird has the ability to rotate its wings in a full circle. Whenever hovering, the hummingbird will move their wings forward and backwards in a repeated figure eight. Hummingbirds even have the ability to fly short distances upside down. This is known as a trick rollover and hummingbirds will use this maneuver whenever they are being attacked by another bird.
We always did enjoy the aerial displays put on by the hummingbirds, didn’t we mom? Well, maybe the information on the unique nature of hummingbird flight will help explain why. I hope that each of you who read this will also have enjoyed discovering about it as well.