Tiny athlete, the hummingbird

It’s a short flight from flowering shrubs to telephone wire to laurel oak in the southeast corner of our backyard where I often see this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

She never has to go shopping: she is always dressed beautifully in a metallic green cloak that shines in the sun.

The skinny-bird look with neck extended means she knows I’m watching her.

She weighs a little less than a nickel. She can beat her wings 80 times per second. At rest, she takes 250 breaths per minute. Her heart beats over 1,000 times per minute.

During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.

Hummingbirds’ brains are the largest relative to their size of any bird and their hearts are the largest relative to their size of any animal. And…

Muscles make up 25–30% of their body weight, and they have long, blade-like wings that, unlike the wings of other birds, connect to the body only from the shoulder joint. This adaptation allows the wing to rotate almost 180°, enabling the bird to fly not only forward but backward, and to hover in mid-air, flight capabilities that are similar to insects and unique among birds.

Watch: Hummingbirds in Slow-Motion

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