Hummingbirds fly forwards, backwards and even upside down! They are unique in this dynamic flight ability as no other birds can do the same.

Hummingbirds are remarkable birds capable of some stunning feats of dexterity and speed. That’s why i want to break down some statistics and abilities of this tiny litttle bird.

Speed, speed, speed

Almost everything about a hummingbird is fast. Their hearts can beat as fast as 1,200 beats per minute, an insanely high number. Human hearts beat at an average of around 60 to 100 beats per minute. That means that a hummingbird’s heart beats around 12 to 20 times faster than your heart, isn’t that amazing?!

Hummingbirds fly

Hummingbirds fly at absolutely breakneck speeds nearing 100km/h. For reference, a hummingbird is only 10cm in size. This means that hummingbirds fly at an absolutely unbelievable 385 body lengths per second. For reference, the Eurofighter is a phenomenally fast fighter jet. It can reach 2,124 km/h. However, it only covers 39 body lengths per second. I hope this puts in to perspective that relative to its size, a hummingbird is FAST!

Hummingbirds are also capable of flapping their wings ridiculously fast. This probably contributes massively to their amazing flight speed. Depending on the species of hummingbird you are looking at, they are capable of flapping their wings anywhere from 50 to 200 times per second! Imagine being able to wave your arms around up and down around 200 times in a single second, it’s unthinkable. No other species of bird even comes close to this almost comical wing speed.

Hummingbirds fly

Omnidirectional movement

Not only can they fly around at the speed of sound (not literally of course), they can also fly backwards! Hummingbirds have specially adapted ball and socket joints in their wings, a trait not found in other birds. This adaptation to their joints gives them an amazing range of movement for their wings.

Their wings are able to move in all directions, and they can also flap their wings in a stunning figure 8 that allows them to remain stationary. This gives them the effect of floating in mid air. It is this ability that also allows them to propel themselves backwards.

Hummingbirds fly

The extreme dexterity that they have evolved in their wings means that hummingbirds can not only fly backwards, but upside down too!

The reason for this is that they can rotate their wings 180 degrees, allowing them to generate lift on the updraft and keep themselves in flight. They are able to do this whether they’re facing the front, back or completely spun around!

As i said before, hummingbirds are the only birds capable of flying in these ways. No other birds have the specialized joint possessed by a hummingbird wing. That means they can’t rotate their wings 180 degrees and can’t fly around upside down or backwards. They simply don’t have as much style or finesse as the humble hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are unique in many ways, and i hope I’ve opened your eyes to just a few examples of why that is today. Next time you’re imaging the fastest animal on earth, maybe give hummingbirds a second thought before jumping straight to cheetahs!

Extra information

Animal-Club provides animal parties or animal handling workshops. You will be able to see, learn and interact with many wonderful animals with the help of our presenters. Our mobile zoo has many friendly animals such as rabbits, tarantulas, geckos, vinegaroons and more, perfect for an animal party. We can also come over to your school for an animal school visit or arrange for an animal workshop with us where the children can learn about looking after animals and animal behaviour, and have fun too.